What If Children Couldn’t Get the Services They Need?

In watching the coverage last night of the debt ceiling, I bristled at a line in Speaker Boehner’s response to President Obama’s remarks: “If you’re spending more money than you’re taking in, you need to spend less of it.” Of course. Makes perfect sense. Except that in this context, “spend less of it” may mean cutting crucial programs and services for families, particularly those whose children have disabilities.

I thought of our friends at Easter Seals, the nonprofit health agency dedicated to helping children and adults with disabilities. Some of the staff visited the White House a few weeks back, and they brought a few of the families they’ve worked with. Their goal: to show the administration just how vital it is to invest in Medicaid, which provides health insurance to those with limited income. Medicaid funding is in danger of being severely slashed, and this would mean that millions of children may not receive the services they need to learn, grow, and thrive.

As Easter Seals President and CEO Jim Williams explained on the Easter Seals blog:

Medicaid allows kids with disabilities to be healthy, happy and independent. A girl needs physical therapy to help stave off the retraction of muscles that often accompanies cerebral palsy. It’s not unusual for a child with cerebral palsy to need physical therapy every week. However, too many private health insurance plans have arbitrary limits on physical therapy services, such as limiting a child to 12 sessions per year. After the 12 visits have been exhausted, families will realize that paying out of pocket to continue therapy is something that they simply cannot afford.

Medicaid allows parents of kids with disabilities to work. Yesterday, our families confirmed that as a result of the gains their children have made because of services paid for by Medicaid, parents can work outside the home for pay.

Medicaid is the only health insurance plan that has the comprehensive benefits that meets the needs of each child with a disability. Children with disabilities need access to the specific services currently available under Medicaid. The basic structure of Medicaid must be maintained.

Finally, Medicaid has already been cut and children with disabilities will be harmed by additional cuts to benefits or provider reimbursement rates. States have already cut Medicaid spending, by eliminating benefits and cutting reimbursement to providers. In many communities, the reimbursement rate is so far below the actual cost of a service making it extremely difficult for providers to continue to serve Medicaid enrolled children.

This whole debt ceiling discussion has left me feeling uneasy–helpless, even. But there is something we can all do. Make your voice heard and sign Easter Seals’ petition to Congress urging them not to cut funding for early intervention services. Click here to do it now.

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  1. by Jeanne S.

    On July 26, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    Kara–you are so right. These budget cuts have consequences, short term and long term. Legislators are only looking at numbers; they need to look at what’s behind the numbers…people with real needs.

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