Senate Approves Harmful Cuts for Individuals with Disabilities and Families

December 22, 2005

Kim E. Musheno
Director of Public Policy

Contact: Kim Musheno
Director of Legislative Affairs

SILVER SPRING, MD (December 22, 2005) - Yesterday the Senate approved a budget reconciliation package that will have very harmful consequences for people with disabilities and their families. The Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) thanks Senators who voted against this package, particularly Senators Smith (R-OR), Collins (R-ME), Snowe (R-ME), Chaffee (R-RI), and DeWine (R-OH). The vote was extremely close - a 50/50 split that required Vice President Cheney to cast the deciding vote. The closeness of the vote is an indication of reservations of the American people about the harmful impact of these cuts on low-income populations, which has caused virtually all organizations concerned with the well-being of individuals with disabilities to oppose the package of cuts.

Medicaid is a lifeline to healthcare and opportunities for individuals with disabilities and seniors to live at home and participate in their communities. Many individuals with disabilities and their families live on extremely limited incomes at or near the poverty line. The approved budget package will make it more difficult for individuals with disabilities to access needed healthcare and remain in the community.

The most harmful provisions include increased cost-sharing and decreased entitlements to benefits, particularly essential Early Periodic Screening and Diagnostic Testing (EPSDT) services for children with disabilities. Lu Zeph, AUCD President stated, "Increased cost-sharing may seem modest to most middle-class, non-disabled individuals. However, increased costs for healthcare will be insurmountable for many individuals who require multiple services and prescription drugs and often rely solely on monthly SSI payments of only $579 - an amount already inadequate to meet rent, food, and other essential daily needs."

While the package does include some positive changes that AUCD has supported for many years, specifically the Money Follows the Person Demonstration and Family Opportunity Act, they alone do not justify support for the package. In fact, their philosophy of improved access to healthcare and community-based services and supports is overshadowed by the other provisions in the bill.

Furthermore, AUCD believes the budget reconciliation package contains additional harmful long-term changes to the structure of the Medicaid program that many members of Congress may not even be fully aware of. For example, the package promotes expansion of home and community-based services in a way that allows states to permit enrollment caps and waiting lists - the very policies that currently prevent Medicaid from meeting the needs of all people with disabilities otherwise eligible for community services.

Members in the House of Representatives were given only a few hours to review the bill before voting on it. A procedural point-of-order passed just prior to the Senate vote will send the bill back to the House for a final vote, before going to the President. Therefore, AUCD strongly urges members of the House to take a closer look at the bill and reconsider the harmful implications for individuals with disabilities and other low-income individuals.

About AUCD
The Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), located in Silver Spring, MD, is a national, non-profit, membership organization that promotes and supports a national network of interdisciplinary centers advancing policy and practices through research, education and services for and with individuals with developmental and other disabilities, their families, and communities.

The AUCD network represents every state and most territories in the United States and over 100 universities and medical schools. Through its members, AUCD serves as a resource for local, state, national and international agencies, organizations and policy-makers concerned about people living with developmental and other disabilities and their families.