The Arc Minnesota, as part of the “This is Medicaid” Coalition, hosted three town halls across the state on the proposed Medicaid cuts in the American Health Care Act. The town halls were held in Bloomington, Northfield, and St. Cloud. Attendance ranged from 20 in St. Cloud to 200 in Bloomington. At each town hall, coalition members discussed the basics of Medicaid and the many supports and services it provides to Minnesotans. Steve Larson, Senior Policy Director of The Arc Minnesota, and Cindy Owen, Executive Director of The Arc Midstate, were panelists at the St. Cloud town hall. Cindy shared her family’s story, and Steve discussed how Minnesotans with a variety of disabilities have benefitted from Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, noting that Medicaid is a “lifeline for Minnesotans with disabilities and their families.” Attendees filled out cards sharing their families’ stories for the Congressional delegation.
The Arc New Jersey, as part of the Coalition for a DSP Living Wage, organized a group of more than 50 family members, self-advocates, providers, and DSPs to visit the State House and advocate for higher wages for DSPs. They met with at least 50 elected officials, including Senate President Steve Sweeney and members of both Budget Committees. For more information, visit the Coalition Facebook page.
Medicaid encompasses a wide array of state-administered programs with are unique in their operation and names. Many beneficiaries know the program’s name, but are unaware that it is part of Medicaid, and are therefore unaware it is in jeopardy if Congress passes the American Health Care Act. To help educate people with disabilities and their families, The Arc Wisconsin and The Arc Kentucky have released infographics listing the names of all Medicaid-funded programs in their states.
NYSARC, as part of the bFair2DirectCare coalition, recently secured a major victory in their fight to increase DSP wages throughout the state. Governor Andrew Cuomo raised his right hand and said: “this hand will not sign a budget unless there is $55 million in it [for DSP wage increases]!” Both Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan voiced their support for the proposal. Under the proposal, DSPs currently earning less than minimum wage scheduled to take effect over the next two years will have their pay increased to and receive an additional 3.25% increase in 2018. DSPs earning above minimum wage will receive a 6.5% increase over the next two years. This is a major victory for NYSARC and the #bFair2DirectCare movement that has long been advocating for a $45 million funding increase. Learn more about the campaign on NYSARC’s website. Follow the coalition on Facebook and Twitter.
The Arc New Jersey’s Self-Advocacy Project hosted an event celebrating Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month at the State House in March. Department of Human Services Commissioner Beth Connolly and more than 35 legislators attended the event. Self-advocates met with these officials to discuss issues important to them such as DSP wages. Pictures from the event can be found on The Arc New Jersey’s Facebook page.
The Arc Minnesota as part of the Best Life Alliance participated in a rally at the state capitol in support of higher wages for DSPs. Attendees included more than 1,000 DSPs, family members, self-advocates, and other advocates. They held more than 160 meetings with legislators. That afternoon, the Minnesota House Health and Human Services Finance Committee held a hearing on HF 873, the bill to increase DSP wages, and approved it for consideration in the Omnibus Health and Human Services Bill.
The Arc Wisconsin has published documents to help mobilize advocates to protect Medicaid. First, as part of the Survival Coalition, the chapter compiled a collection of stories demonstrating the importance of Medicaid to the 1st Congressional District, which House Speaker Paul Ryan represents. Additionally, the chapter collaborated with the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities and People First Wisconsin to create a guide to proposed Medicaid changes for self-advocates. The document first explains the broad range of services Medicaid covers from medical care to job coaches. Next, it provides a plain language explanation of how a per capita cap would work, examples of ways the state might change the program to save money, gives sample questions for policymakers, and lists key policymakers for self-advocates to contact.
NYARC has continued to advocate for an additional $45 million to fund a DSP wage increase. The chapter’s most recent advocacy efforts in this area included a press conference at the State Capitol, a radio interview with NYSARC President Laura Kennedy on the Capitol Pressroom, and a sit-in outside Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office. During her interview, Kennedy stated: “Unless we get the funding to even just stabilize the staff right now, we’re going to have some very very ugly situations.”
The Arc Maryland and other organizations in the Developmental Disability Coalition recently hosted Developmental Disabilities Day at the State Capitol. There was a record turnout with 725 advocates in attendance. Governor Larry Hogan attended the event to discuss his budget and his experience with a man with Down Syndrome who supported him while they were both receiving cancer treatment. Advocates from The Arc Maryland also recently testified in favor of SB 475, the Crisis Resolution Waiting List bill, and the Maryland State Department of Education budget for increasing Autism Waiver slots. Earlier that week, The Arc Maryland provided testimony in favor in HB 644, the Independent Living Tax Credit Act.