By DANIELLE KOGAN
The possibility of a Medicaid cap inspired some 20 disabled adults in wheelchairs and their home attendants to protest outside Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s New York City office on Thursday.
Cuomo’s failure to respond to rumors that the expenditures may be capped after a the announcement of a $3 billion shortfall has sparked fear among the disable activists. The disabled, even those working jobs and paying taxes, said they were worried about a cuts forcing them into underfunded nursing homes and a poor quality of life.
According to activists, the potential cap on the Medicaid program would specifically impact the home attendants in New York City as well as limit the number of working hours they would be able to work.
“If I can’t have my attendant to put on my shoes in the morning, how am I going to get dressed to go to work?” said Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled advocate Milagros Franco. “Their services keep us out of nursing homes and nursing homes in the long run cost more money than the cost of having us in the community,”
“If it wasn’t for the two home attendants I have, I wouldn’t be able to get from my chair to my child bed,” said protestor and Medicaid recipient Kelly Irish, “I’m 55 years old, I’m an adult. And they say this is all they will pay for. I did work at one point, I did pay taxes, they’re acting like I never contributed to this city so I’m forced into something that makes no sense.”
Irish said she had to fight the Medicaid program to grant her home attendant more hours and recounted a negative experience in a nursing home while waiting for results on her case.
“They’re trying to force us into nursing homes.” said Irish, “Since he’s come into the office he’s [Cuomo] slowly cut, everything has slowly gotten bigger since he got re-elected. Because he thought nobody is paying attention.”
Irish’s home attendant, Yarisel Castro, said the possibility of a cap was frustrating and said she stayed extra hours unpaid around twice a week. “Sometimes I see my client crying because she can’t get some type of service, having a lot of problems with something for her chair and it’s frustrating to see that.,” said Castro. “I hope that she can get whatever she needs.”
“Without these people to help us we wouldn’t be able to do a lot of the things that we do,” said Thomas Powell, another Medicaid advocate and recipient. “Just doing everyday things. I have one girl that’s with me over 50 years, it’s an extended member of the family really, and if you ask around i’m sure everyone would say the same thing. Their salaries are very low, and they can’t live on what they get they have to get another job. They’d make more money flipping hamburgers,” .
“The [general] budgets cuts that they’re doing, they’re not fair, they’re not just, it’s a lie.” said Stephanie Wallace from her wheelchair. “It’s like they’re cooking the books. We’re real people. Our lives are real, the things that we need are real. They can’t just blink us off. What happens to us really what happens to us?”
We’re trying to be good allies to the other people around here,” said Jason Davidson, Food and Agriculture Campaigner at Friends of the Earth, “With so many people here literally fighting for their lives and social services, we don’t need to be taking up more space than we do here.”
Governor Cuomo did not respond to requests for comment by deadline.