Providers join rally in Washington against potential Medicaid cuts

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Protestors rally at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday over potential cuts to Medicaid.
Protestors rally at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday over potential cuts to Medicaid.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Hundreds of protesters, accompanied by a handful of animated members of Congress, rallied against potential Medicaid cuts Tuesday on the northeast lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

The LeadingAge co-sponsored event was part of a nationwide campaign to protest a potential $800 billion in Medicaid cuts and “protect the lives of people with disabilities.” The cuts would come if a House-passed healthcare reform bill makes it through the Senate, which is in doubt.

Medicaid is the No. 1 payer of nursing home services, which has driven long-term care providers to lobby intensely against any proposed cuts.

“[Block grants] are a Trojan horse for more budget cuts, and we're not going to let them happen!” yelled Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) [below, left] into a megaphone to a growing lunchtime crowd.

Several dozen individuals of all ages in wheelchairs were among the gathering, which brandished a variety of colorful signs with slogans such as “Save Medicaid!” “No cuts, no caps!” and “Don't take my care!”

Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA) [below, right], Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) also each vowed to battle for a more Medicaid-friendly bill in the Senate to loud cheers. It was no coincidence that the rally was held within sight of the Senate office buildings, where GOP leaders were reportedly meeting to hammer out a more Medicaid-friendly measure than the House bill.

“This diverse group of people gets to the core reason we have a Medicaid program,” LeadingAge Vice President of Legislative Affairs Marsha Greenfield, who attended with a handful of association colleagues, told McKnight's. “They're all affected by Medicaid cuts. These folks are in our facilities, or in our home- and community-based services programs, and they're liable to be in our facilities at some point. It's important for members of the Senate, and the House, to see how deeply this affects people.”

Organizers of the “June 6th Day Action” say that the 10 million Americans with disabilities make up about 14% of Medicaid participants; they account for 40% of the cost, which indicates they will be disproportionately harmed by any cutbacks.

The American Health Care Association also protested potential Medicaid cuts and focused heavily on lobbying Republican senators away from them during its annual Congressional fly-in event Monday and Tuesday. That event attracted a record 450 members from around the country who visited virtually every key legislators' office during a two-day blitz, organizers said.

AHCA President and CEO Mark Parkinson expressed doubt Tuesday that disparate Senate GOP factions could unite to reach the 51 votes needed to pass a health reform bill before Congress' August recess. But he also acknowledged that conventional wisdom, including AHCA's best guesses, had not counted on Republicans claiming the White House and both houses of Congress in last November's election.