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What the Medicaid Fight Means to Me as Someone With a Disability

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Congressional Republicans, spearheaded by Speaker Paul Ryan and Vice President Mike Pence, are under deep pressure to pass legislation which would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act — the groundbreaking health care legislation passed in 2010 under President Barack Obama. Under the AHCA, Medicaid funding would be drastically cut – with such severe restructuring that it would be the end of the program as we know it. The legislation also eliminates protections for people with pre-existing conditions to have guaranteed access to healthcare.

As someone with a disability, this legislation has a deeper impact than most other pieces of legislation do on my day-to-day life. Health care is critical for anyone with a disability, because our disabilities are so inherently impacted by our health. My body is impaired and constantly working to keep up with the rest of the world despite facing significant barriers. Health care provides me with pain relief, physical therapy, and answers. Medical professionals help me understand my body in ways WebMD cannot and should not. They provide me with the answers that ensure I can take care of my body, and help me learn to love and cope with the negative implications of my cerebral palsy.

Health care is a bridge for people with disabilities. It bridges my disabled body to resources and support that allows me to be the strongest I can be. Health care anchors me in a deeper understanding of my own body, my limitations, my weaknesses and my strengths. And perhaps most importantly, health care gives me compassion and support.

When the government prevents people with disabilities from accessing health care, they are ultimately barring us from the very services that help us exist and thrive with our disabilities. We already exist in a world with structural and physical barriers that make it harder to live with a disability, such as unfair stereotypes, stairs, buildings without ramps etc. Denying us health care creates an even more terrifying personal barrier — a barrier that prevents us from accessing our own bodies and our own health.

According to the Center for American Progress, more than half of children with disabilities rely on public insurance coverage, such as Medicaid, for medical services and supports. Medicaid is a critical program that allows millions of people with disabilities to access necessary health care.

As someone with a disability, I have a lot to lose when our government decides they can mandate whether or not I have access to health care. As someone with a disability, health care is not a mere checkup, but the difference between whether or not I can live without pain. It is the difference of whether I merely survive, or thrive. It is symbolic of whether my country wants to help me utilize my strengths, or will allow me to be barred by the untreated limitations of my disability. For many people with disabilities, access to health care is simply life or death.

Editor’s note: This story reflects an individual’s experience and is not an endorsement from The Mighty. We believe in sharing a variety of perspectives from our community.

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Originally published: May 13, 2017
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