AUCD Celebrates the Anniversary of the Olmstead Decision

Urges the Senate to Oppose any Bill that would threaten community-based services

June 22, 2017


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Today is the 18th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Olmstead v. LC decision in Olmstead v. LC, which declared that people with disabilities have a civil right under the Americans with Disabilities Act to live and participate in their communities. Unfortunately, on the same day of the anniversary of this landmark decision, the Senate released a health care bill that threatens this right by fundamentally altering the Medicaid program. 

The 1999 "Olmstead" decision fundamentally changed the lives of Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson, who had both been languishing in an institution for years after their initial treatment ended. Curtis and Wilson filed and won a suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that led to their freedom from an institution.  Since then, many people have been freed from institutional residential and employment settings and are living where they want to live and working in the community.

The American Health Care Act (AHCA) passed the House of Representatives on March 20 and is now being considered by the Senate. The AHCA cuts Medicaid by more than $800 billion over 10 years.  In addition, Medicaid funding would be allocated based on a per capita cap formula or, at state option, block grant. Both scenarios would result in a radically different Medicaid program that would adversely affect the community living options and supports for people with disabilities. Under current law, anyone who meets a state's eligibility requirements is eligible to participate in the Medicaid program. In the future, those who are eligible would only join Medicaid if the state has enough money for them to do so. It would shift costs onto states and states would be forced to either raise taxes or severely restrict services that help people with disabilities live, work, and play in the community. 

"It's almost beyond belief that the Senate could be releasing a bill that dramatically cuts funding for community-based services on the Anniversary of the Olmstead decision," said Andrew Imparato, executive director of AUCD. "Radically restructuring and cutting Medicaid puts the entire national support system for our community at risk."

The Senate bill reportedly cuts Medicaid even further. Advocates are very concerned about the lack of transparency in the process too. No one has seen drafts of the Senate bill at is was developed; there are no hearings or markups scheduled. However, the Senate will now apparently push the bill through the chamber within a week's time, leaving no time to analyze its impact.

AUCD strongly urges Senators to reform the health care law in a way that protects access to affordable, accessible, and comprehensive health care and reforms long term services and supports in a way that encourages people with disabilities to live in the community and remain employed - as the U.S. Supreme Court directed 18 years ago today.

The Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), located in Silver Spring, MD, promotes and supports a national network of interdisciplinary centers on disabilities. The members of AUCD represent every U.S. state and territory. AUCD and its members work to advance policy and practice through research, education, leadership, and services for and with individuals with developmental and other disabilities, their families, and communities. For more information, visit AUCD's website,