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Vital services could be cut for people with disabilities

WBFO News file photo

The cuts proposed under the Republican health care bill could end up hurting thousands of local residents who rely on Medicaid to live in the community.

Western New York Independent Living Inc., Director of Advocacy and Public Policy, Todd Vaarwerk says, lowering Medicaid reimbursement rates will make it harder to find providers willing to accept Medicaid. Vaarwerk says the program not only provides access to health care - it helps keep people with disabilities out in the community - compared to a nursing home - which costs, on average, $124,000 per person per year.
"So, if you can keep me in the community living in an apartment and going to a job, and the only thing you're doing is providing 17 hours of health care, at Medicaid billing $20.00 an hour, look at how much money you're saving," Vaawerk said.    

Western New York Independent Living serves over 10,000 people across the region.
"In Independent Living there's a saying, 'Nothing about us without us.' We're making cuts, grand cuts to the Medicaid system, but no one is consulting the people that are effected about the dollars they look in taking down stream. And what the effect of dollars are taking down stream," Vaarwerk said.     

Instead of talking about making services more efficient and more effective, Vaawerk says supporters of the Republican health bill are focused on providing tax cuts for people that don't need it.
"If you said to me, 'We're going to reduce something $800 billion but put it back into schools. Or put it into something else that was a priority for the country', I'd go, well okay maybe I could see some of that. But we're going to need to fight about what those cuts are. And we're going to need to take efficiencies first. We're not doing that," Vaarwerk said.

Along with being a service provider for people with disabilities, Vaarwek says, Western New York Independent Living also employs about 1,500 health care workers.