BY KARLA J STRAND: For Complete Post, click here…
The U.S. Congress is at a critical juncture in the negotiations on the Build Back Better reconciliation bill. The original proposal was for $3.5 trillion in new spending—paid for by tax increases on corporations and those making more than $400,000 annually—aimed at improving infrastructure. Of this, $450 billion was earmarked for an increase in Medicaid home and community-based services (HCBS).
These services, such as meal delivery, respite, and other care services, are essential to improving the lives of people with disabilities, those who are aging, and their care providers. But after mostly leaving the fray to moderate and progressive Democrats to battle out a compromise, President Joe Biden unveiled an updated outline for the bill on October 19. Bowing to centrist concerns, Biden’s version of the plan is now down to between $1.75 trillion and $1.9 trillion, and the cuts have caregivers (and receivers) concerned.
Since February, progressive Democratic legislators have been pushing Biden to make good on his campaign promise to increase Medicaid funding for HCBS. In March, Senators Maggie Hassan, Democrat of New Hampshire; Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio; and Bob Casey, Democrat of Pennsylvania; and Representative Debbie Dingell, Democrat of Michigan, introduced the Home and Community-Based Services Access Act.
Within weeks, Representatives Dingell; Ayanna Pressley, Democrat of Massachusetts; Conor Lamb, Democrat of Pennsylvania; and Pramila Jayapal, Democrat of Washington, sent Biden a letter signed by 107 of their colleagues calling for the $450 billion investment in these service to be added to the Build Back Better infrastructure package.
Following the Senate vote, more than forty-five national disability organizations sent a plea to House and Senate leadership further explaining the imperative of full funding. Unfortunately, last month the House committees with purview over Medicare—Ways & Means and Energy & Commerce—endorsed increasing Medicaid HCBS funding by only $190 billion instead of the $400 billion advocated by caregivers and progressive legislators.
That proposed $210 billion cut is not inconsequential: It could be the difference between whether more people are able to receive life-saving medical treatment or not.