Tuesday, September 22, 2020

As a Disabled Woman and a Healthcare Consumer, I Beg You to Vote

 Today, September 22, 2020 is National Voter Registration Day. The upcoming election on November 3, 2020 is really important for many reasons, especially for me as a disabled voter. It can be tempting to feel like there is no purpose in voting or like it is impossible to change “the system.” But now is not the time for hopelessness—you matter, as does your right to vote, an opportunity for which our ancestors were willing to give their lives. 


As I cast my ballot this fall, healthcare will be at the forefront of my mind. 


This election will affect the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which expanded access to home and community- based services for people with disabilities like me through a provision called the Community First Choice Option (CFCO). CFCO is a dense piece of policy but in summary, it makes it easier for states to offer assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) like bathing, dressing, and eating by prohibiting wait lists and requiring that eligibility criteria be the same for all diagnosis groups. The federal government gives more money to CFCO compliant states—in turn, these states have increased funding to keep folks like me out of nursing homes. 


The ACA also expands Medicaid in participating states to non-disabled adults, many of whom have impairments, but still don’t meet the requirements to get Medicaid through government benefits like SSI. The Medicaid expansion also helps non-disabled low-income adults whose jobs don’t provide insurance, those between jobs, and non-disabled adults who may not have access to employer coverage for other reasons (think people who stay home to care for a medically complex family member).


Finally, if you have been able to stay on parental insurance through age 26, you can thank the ACA. The fate of these policies could be on the line very soon—this is just one reason I vote!


Anyone who has read my work knows I am passionate about Medicaid advocacy. It doesn’t make me a lot of friends at parties (shocking, I know!), but my constant babble about Medicaid is warranted. For people with disabilities who need personal care assistance (hi! It’s me!) and for the increasing number of elders in need, Medicaid is a lifeline. Medicaid is the payer for long-term care expenses, which out of pocket would cost more than the average annual salary. 


Three years ago, when I appeared in a video about Medicaid, internet trolls literally told me I deserved to die if I couldn’t pay for an aide. Others said if they were in a wheelchair, they would take a lethal injection and that knowing the expense of my disability, my parents should have aborted me. The truth that people think this way shook me to my core. But I would appear in the video again and bear the wounds inflicted by those comments again—because Medicaid matters that much to me and because this fight is bigger than my personal needs.


In addition to long term care, did you know that Medicaid provides funding for some special education services?  


Among Medicaid eligible students, Medicaid provides funding for support services such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, counseling, and nursing. Some districts use this funding to provide school nurses, which outrageously are not required! In total, Medicaid allocates about 4 billion dollars for special education services. 


Clearly, there are dozens of issues in this election, but healthcare hits the closest to home for me. My point is that this election is about more than just a president. When you vote, you make choices about the future of a myriad of programs that affect real lives. And when you don’t vote, I hear that you don’t care. That really hurts.


To find more information about voting in your state, including mail-in ballots due to COVID-19, check out this helpful guide: Rock the Vote! Voter Guide


The polling place doesn’t have an accessible voting machine!


The accessible door is locked!


The poll worker is trying to pressure you not to use the accessible machine!


The poll worker condescendingly suggests that your mom just push the buttons for you!


If you’re having an accessibility issue, what should you do?


Know your rights: https://www.usa.gov/disability-rights - item-212487


Contact your local board of elections as soon as possible to report the problem: https://www.usa.gov/election-office


Some states offer early voting, which is especially helpful to disabled voters who rely on services like paratransit. You can find out here if you can vote early: https://www.vote.org/early-voting-calendar/


There is so much at stake on November 3! If not for yourself, participate for me and for millions of Americans for whom these issues are not abstract. 


Naming America’s injustices and demanding positive change does not mean you hate your country. It means you love her so much that you call on her to grow and you believe in her potential to become better. Most importantly, it means you love her enough to help her do so.



**For old times sake, here's 2017 me talking about Medicaid. Come at me, trolls... I'm stronger than you.**

Kathleen Downes- Medicaid interview for Mic

1 comment:

  1. Keep these articles coming girl, you are an inspiration to all. You never cease to amaze me with your gift of presenting situations the way you see and know them, I will keep watching. Love ya, Gerry