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Advocates for developmentally disabled raise concerns about AHCA's Medicaid cuts

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One day after House Republicans led passage of the American Health Care Act, advocates for the developmentally disabled in Western New York are raising concerns about a key element of the plan.

One of the things the Republican-led American Health Care Act does, in its replacement of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, is it changes Medicaid funding and converts it from an entitlement program for the poor and disabled and converts it into a fixed-dollar block grant system. New York State is expected to lose up to $3 billion as the result of this adjustment.

For those working with people living with developmental disabilities in Western New York, the prospect of Medicaid cuts is raising fears for how it will compromise their services. People Inc. serves an estimated 12,000 clients. About 90 percent of the expenses to serve them, according to a People Inc. representative, is covered by Medicaid.

"Our individuals need these dollars," said Kevin Horrigan, vice president/public affairs for People Inc. "We're afraid that they threw the baby out with the bath water on these programs."

Also at risk of severe financial cuts is the medical clinic operated by People Inc. on Elmwood Avenue. Horrigan says about half of the people served by the clinic are from the general public.

"Our services have expended there because of the Affordable Care Act and its Medicaid expansion," Horrigan said. "People have been coming into our health center to get health care services versus going to the emergency room."

While facing the threat of sharp Medicaid cuts, demand for the services is rising. About 1,200 people are on a waiting list for group homes in Western New York alone, Horrigan said, while a large number of people await enrollment for day programs. 

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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