Medicaid Is A Civil Rights Issue


Editor’s Note: The New Normal blog continues to cover the impact of proposed Medicaid cuts on the lives of people with disabilities. Thank you to Erica Mones for sharing her perspective which originally appeared here.

Nearly once a week a conservative “friend” of mine writes something along the lines of “Yeah–cut back on Medicaid! No one should be living off the system.” I usually hide these from my newsfeed because I feel my blood boil. I am on Medicaid. About a quarter of my friends are on Medicaid. We all have one thing in common: we are disabled and require personal care attendants (PCAs) for daily life. I am amongst the more independent (at least physically) of my friends; I only need a PCA for an hour a day. Many of my friends require 24-hour assistance. If they cannot feed themselves or use the bathroom by themselves, having a PCA is not an option; it is a necessity. For me, having a PCA costs $35 a day, but for many it is exponentially more.  The heartbreaking reality is that some of them do not qualify for Medicaid, yet they still cannot afford 24-hour care. This forces them to stay home with parents who are aging. I have friends who are well into their twenties, and have still never been away from home. This is not a choice, but their only option.  They cannot move away from home because they cannot care for themselves, and cannot afford a PCA.

It infuriates me to hear conservatives ramble about laziness and how the “working men should be able to spend their money how they choose” when so many Americans cannot work because they do not even have the money just to take care of themselves.  They cannot show up for a job if they cannot shower or dress. I wish conservatives understood what Medicaid does for the disabled. Medicaid is the difference between independence and a life spent at home.

Since many disabled Americans are forced to stay home, they have no opportunity to better their lives. It is a vicious cycle for so many people. It is what is keeping able-bodies and the disabled segregated. Disabled people have so few opportunities as it is with inaccessibility. When lack of care is thrown into the mix, our opportunities dwindle.

Next time I hear a conservative knock Medicaid, I hope I have the courage and eloquence to speak about disability rights. I hope I can help my conservative friends understand how much it actually costs to be disabled in this country and how that hinders so many disabled people. I hope I can help them understand that we need Medicaid just to survive and that we are not lazy or leeches sucking up their money; we were born (or acquired) a disability that automatically puts us behind.

Erica Mones is studying Classics at Loyola University. Check out her blog here.