Advocates shine spotlight on people with special health needs as White House weighs Medicaid cuts

Advocates for people with disabilities and special health needs are out in force as President Obama and lawmakers weigh deep cuts to Medicaid as part of debt-ceiling talks.

Georgetown's Health Policy Institute released a report Thursday concluding that almost eight in 10 children with autism, cancer and other special healthcare needs who are enrolled in Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program — about 2.9 million children — rely on those programs as their primary source of coverage. For many others, government programs fill the gaps for services not covered by private insurance or help with cost-sharing.

"Children have the most to lose in the budget debate if Medicaid takes the brunt of the budget cuts because they make up a disproportionate share of Medicaid beneficiaries," the paper concludes. "Children and youth with special health care have more at stake in the deficit debate than any others."

Earlier this week, several people with disabilities who benefit from Medicaid services met with officials in the White House to share their personal experiences with the state and federal programs. They were joined by representatives of United Cerebral Palsy and the American Association of People with Disabilities — putting a human face on this critical resource for millions of Americans with disabilities and their families.

"People with disabilities join all Americans in recognizing the need to tackle our national debt," United Cerebral Palsy President and CEO Stephen Bennett said. "There are alternative ways to reform Medicaid without gutting the vital supports that create real opportunities for people with disabilities."