Statement by Robert Bacon, President, Association of University Centers on Disabilities Regarding the Bush Administration's Medicaid Reform Proposal

February 6, 2003


Kim E. Musheno
Director of Public Policy
301-588-8252
kmusheno@aucd.org

SILVER SPRING, MD (February 6, 2003) - The Association of University Centers on Disabilities is surprised and disappointed that the Bush Administration, that just two years ago, announced the New Freedom Initiative to reduce barriers to community living for people with developmental and other disabilities, would consider a proposal that could severely weaken Medicaid, the primary source of long term care for people with disabilities.

The plan, released on Friday, would provide states with two allotments for the Medicaid and SCHIP programs - one for acute care and one for long term care. Comprehensive benefits would be preserved for people in "mandatory" coverage groups, while states would have flexibility to tailor coverage for "non-mandatory" groups and services. While the plan would be "optional" for states, they would have to choose this plan if they wanted the extra fiscal relief promised in the announcement. The announcement points out that two-thirds of Medicaid spending is on non-mandatory groups or on optional benefits and that states should be given more "flexibility to design their programs, with a predictable federal contribution."

AUCD views this plan as an attempt to block grant Medicaid and give states more discretion to reduce or eliminate the optional groups and optional benefits under the program. Many of the services and supports that people with developmental and other disabilities receive are in the "optional" category. But they are not optional to the well-being and quality of life for these individuals. It is these optional services and supports that allow people with disabilities to live and work in the community and to avoid more costly and segregated institutionalization.

AUCD strongly opposes any plan that would reduce federal supports that allow people with disabilities to live in the community. The Administration has recently worked with the disability community to establish systems change grants, cash and counseling demonstration grants and other initiatives to enhance independence. Therefore, is seems contrary to our nation's disability policy and to the President's own New Freedom Initiative, and will result in significant harm to individuals with disabilities. The federal government should develop a better alternative to insure more Americans.

The Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) is a network of interdisciplinary Centers advancing policy and practices for and with individuals with developmental and other disabilities, their families, and communities.


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