Debt ceiling negotiations risk Medicaid benefits, Iowa faces special education cuts, and a disabled man reaches Everest summit
News round-up for the week of May 28
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Medical Motherhood’s news round up
Snippets of news and opinion from outlets around the world. Click the links for the full story.
• From Disability Scoop: “Medicaid, Disability Programs Could Face Cuts In Debt Ceiling Negotiations”
The future of Medicaid and other programs critical to people with disabilities are on the line amid a Washington standoff over the nation’s debt ceiling, advocates say.
President Joe Biden and leaders in Congress are working to reach a deal to avert a first-ever government default. Without an agreement, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned that the U.S. could hit what’s known as the debt ceiling as soon as June 1.
Last month, the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to raise the country’s debt limit — the amount of money that the government is permitted to borrow. The bill included work requirements for Medicaid beneficiaries and significant cuts to domestic spending, which would affect everything from education to employment, housing and other programs for people with disabilities.
The measure was seen as a nonstarter for Democrats, who control the Senate, but disability advocates say the bill shows what’s at risk in the negotiations to avert a fiscal crisis.
“Given the consequences to the economy, there is enormous pressure to reach an agreement that can pass the House and the Senate,” said David Goldfarb, director of policy at The Arc of the United States. “In addition to Medicaid cuts, I am very concerned about caps to discretionary spending which will hurt people with disabilities. Caps to discretionary spending could mean less funding for accessible housing, less funding for special education, a worsening Social Security Administration customer service crisis, and so much more.”
Advocates have been particularly alarmed by Republican efforts to impose work requirements on many Medicaid beneficiaries. Even with exemptions for people with disabilities and their parents and caregivers, they say that additional red tape would make it likely that individuals will lose coverage, which could include access to home and community-based services. […]
• From KCCI (8) in Iowa: “'These kids need a voice': Parents worry about budget cuts to agencies helping special needs kids”
[…]Iowa has nine [Area Education Agencies or] AEAs that provide special education services to public and private school students across the state. The agencies also help families who have infants and toddlers with special needs.
State lawmakers agreed months ago to increase public education funding by 3%, which will boost how much state aid school districts and AEAs get for each student enrolled in public school.
Despite that increase, Republican lawmakers also agreed to reduce state funding to the agencies by nearly $30 million next year. They made that change while finalizing the state budget during the last week of the session.
It is the largest of ongoing budget cuts that AEAs have faced for decades.
Lawmakers are required each year to cut AEA funding by roughly $7.5 million. Jon Sheldahl, Chief Administrator for the Heartland Area Education Agency, says lawmakers have also approved an additional $15 million cut for the past several years.
But Sheldahl says agencies were shocked when Republican lawmakers approved a $22 million budget cut this year instead.
"We were fully expecting a $15 million cut at the end of this session. We get one every year," Sheldahl said. "But we weren't expecting the extra $5 million [cut]...We're getting less than we budgeted for, and we're getting less-- to budget for staff going forward."
[…]Sheldahl says students who get direct services, including speech, physical or occupational therapy, could get them less often.
"It'll impact our ability to add the staff that we need to keep up with the growing population," Sheldahl said. "It will decrease the frequency with which many students receive services, how often [and] for how long."
Parents of children with special needs worry about what a future with fewer services would look like. […]
• From the Associated Press via The Hill: “Double amputee Everest climber pledges to work for benefit of people with disabilities”
The first double above-the-knee amputee to climb Mount Everest returned from the mountain on Tuesday pledging to dedicate the rest of his life to helping people with disabilities.
Hari Budha Magar, a former Gurkha soldier who lives in Britain, reached the peak of the world's highest mountain last week.
“My main aim for the rest of my lifetime is going to be working to bring awareness about disability,” Magar said on his return to Kathmandu, Nepal's capital.
As a soldier in a Gurkha regiment in the British army, Magar lost both his legs in Afghanistan when he accidently stepped on an improvised explosive device in 2010.
[…]“If a double above-knee amputee can climb Everest, you can climb whatever mountain you face, as long as you are disciplined, work hard and put everything into it,” he said.
Magar was born in a remote mountain village in Nepal and later was recruited by the British army as a Gurkha. He now lives with his family in Canterbury, England. […]
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