Saving Medicaid is critical to America’s blind
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For more than fifty years Medicaid has provided much-needed security and stability to some of America’s most disempowered people. Especially for people with disabilities, Medicaid has been and remains an essential lifeline. That lifeline is under attack in the form of Draconian cuts proposed by both the American Health Care Act (AHCA) and the current administration’s proposed budget. These cuts would, without exaggeration, upend millions of lives.

One community in particular – the blind – would be disproportionately and negatively affected if the more than $1 trillion in proposed Medicaid cuts came to fruition. According to an analysis of the cuts, upwards of seven hundred thousand people with disabilities would lose access to health insurance as a result of cuts to Medicaid. Based on the ratio of blind people currently using Medicaid relative to the total population of disabled people using Medicaid, more than one hundred thousand blind people would lose insurance, making these proposed cuts a potential catastrophe for blind people everywhere.

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The National Federation of the Blind, the oldest and largest nationwide organization of blind people in the United States, strongly and unequivocally opposes cuts to Medicaid. These proposed cuts would undermine the security, stability, and prosperity of more than one hundred thousand blind people in this country. This is an untenable prospect and we categorically reject it.  

Whether it is a poverty rate twice the national average or an employment rate less than half the national level, the blind already face significant challenges in attaining the American dream. To strip health insurance from so many blind people would serve only to erect additional barriers and obstacles to our efforts to achieve that dream. Blind households would suddenly face drastically higher costs and strained budgets, exacerbating the preexisting challenges of high poverty and low employment.

Medicaid, which provides insurance to an estimated 1.4 million blind people, is a vital component of our continuing effort to promote opportunity and prosperity in our community. We thus call upon members of the United States Senate to oppose any bill that proposes cuts to Medicaid of the type contained in the AHCA and the current administration’s budget. We especially call upon the senators from the eleven states in which at least 40 percent of people with disabilities rely on Medicaid for health insurance to vote no on any legislation that would imperil the economic stability and family security of their blind constituents. Namely, senators from the states of California, Connecticut, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and West Virginia should join us in opposing any cuts to Medicaid. To vote in favor of such cuts would be to resign tens of thousands of blind people to a life of economic uncertainty and hardship.

When President Lyndon B. Johnson and former President Harry S. Truman stood alongside each other to commemorate the passage of the Social Security Amendments Act of 1965, the legislation that established both Medicare and Medicaid, it was clear that something historic and revolutionary had just happened. By extending access to health insurance to those who may not have access to it otherwise, Congress codified the idea that health insurance is an indispensable element of economic security and made it a reality. As a result, since 1965, millions of blind Americans have been able to live more stable and productive lives. To fundamentally undermine the Medicaid program would be to substantially roll back much of that progress. We sincerely hope that the Congress of today, and the Senate will not dishonor the legacy of its forbearers and in doing so, make it harder for we in the blind community to live the kind of lives we want. 

Mark Riccobono is President of the National Federation of the Blind. His email address is officeofthepresident@nfb.org.


The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.