ICS Members Testify At Medicaid Redesign Team Forum

A number of community members expressed anger and concern over proposed state Medicaid cuts at a recent New York State Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT) II Public Comment Forum. Many believe the cuts will severely affect services and reduce their independence.

Earlier this year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo instituted a 1 percent cut to Medicaid providers statewide. That translates to $124 million in the final quarter of the current fiscal year and $496 million in the fiscal year beginning April 1. Additionally, Gov. Cuomo is aiming to cut $2 billion in state aid to New York City and other parts of the state to tackle a $6.1 billion budget deficit.

In February, Gov. Cuomo announced the formation of the MRT II, a group of healthcare experts, insurance industry representatives, advocates, and consumers. The team is tasked with making recommendations to save $2.5 billion in the state’s Medicaid budget for fiscal year 2021.

A tall order for the Medicaid Redesign Team

MRT II representatives, including Donna Frescatore, head of the State Medicaid Department and ICS member and board member T.K. Small, gave an overview of the team’s approach and goals at the March 2 public forum, which was held at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT).

 The MRT’s orders are to:

  • Address drivers of greater-than-projected costs and growth in Medicaid
  • Improve care management and care delivery for beneficiaries with complex health conditions
  • Modernize regulations, laws, policies and programs that hinder progress on achieving efficiencies
  • Ensure a stable and skilled workforce
  • Strengthen the sustainability of safety net healthcare providers
  • Reassess Medicaid global cap metrics
  • Maximize service delivery system efficiencies
  • Reduce waste, fraud, and abuse

Recommendations are due to the governor by March 31.

A diverse group protests

Prior to the forum, city and nonprofit leaders, homecare workers and disability advocates—including members of Independence Care System (ICS), Disabled in Action (DIA), the Civics League for Disability Rights (CLDR) and Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled (BCID)—gathered outside FIT, sporting signs with phrases including “You Cut Medicaid—You Kill Me!” and “I’m Not A Budget Line, I’m a Person!” and filled the streets with chants of “Stop Cuomo’s Medicaid Cuts!”

 During the forum, more than 50 people testified in opposition to the Medicaid cuts. Some advocates raised concern over cuts to CDPA, a Medicaid-funded program that allows people with chronic illnesses and physical disabilities to hire, train and supervise their own caregivers. Others said that the State is cutting essential services, rather than assessing the cost of Medicaid based on the needs of New York’s rapidly aging population and its nearly one million residents with disabilities.

 ICS and DIA member Robert Acevedo said that cuts to the Medicaid budget would hurt wheelchair users and people with disabilities.

 “We can’t get along without a wheelchair or wheelchair repairs because we’d be stuck in our homes,” Robert said. “We can’t get along without services or supplies or equipment that Medicaid pays for.”

 ICS member Anne-Elizabeth Straub called on the MTR II to weigh its options carefully, and to remember that people with disabilities are as much a part of society as those without disabilities.

 “I’ve placed my photo on my wheelchair for you to see me coming and going,” Anne-Elizabeth said. “I’m not an individual in a chair—but a person with a life and a face.”

Community decries Medicaid cuts

 ICS member Valerie Joseph criticized the MRT II for its first forum on February 14, which was scheduled with less than 24 hours of notice, preventing people with disabilities from attending. She noted that her wheelchair has been broken for two weeks, and without crucial Medicaid-provided services, she is concerned for her long-term well-being.

 “Look at my face,” Valerie said. “My services are being cut—how am I going to live?”

ICS member Iffat Mahmud noted how the closure of programs, including ICS’ managed long term care program, have been detrimental to the disability community. Future Medicaid cuts, Iffat said, would have devastating consequences for people with disabilities.

“I’m a consumer directed person. We are productive members of society,” Iffat said. “Why do you want to take that away from us? Disabilities are not disappearing. They’re increasing. Nursing homes? That’s not something I’m looking forward to. Nor do I want to go there. No way. Homecare really matters. CDPA matters. ICS matters. People with disabilities are not going away, and neither are the elderly.”

For more information on the Medicaid Redesign Team, click here.

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