The Supercommittee must engage in debt reduction—not opportunity reduction

"I'm Riley and I rely on Medicaid." by The Children's Alliance on flickr
"I'm Riley and I rely on Medicaid." by The Children's Alliance on flickr

–Mark Perriello and Stephen Bennett

The debt reduction Supercommittee will hold its first meeting on September 8.  As they prepare to start their work, Americans of every background and political orientation are looking to these twelve elected representatives to set aside political gamesmanship and produce a plan that reflects both our nation’s urgent needs and its core values.   To accomplish this, the Supercommittee must preserve Medicaid, which provides millions of Americans with disabilities the tools to remain healthy and participate in our communities.

Like all Americans, people with disabilities—and our families and supporters—understand that this nation faces tough fiscal choices.  Balancing our budget on the backs of Americans who are already living at the margins is not a viable choice.  We stand ready to work with the Supercommittee to formulate a plan that reflects our American values of opportunity, fairness, and basic dignity for all.

We believe:

–In the deficit-reduction process, we must preserve Medicaid for the people whom it offers a vital lifeline.

–The eight million Americans with disabilities who use Medicaid cannot be forgotten.  They are brothers and sisters, neighbors, friends, and community volunteers.

–Medicaid provides many Americans the tools they need to participate fully in community life.  Without Medicaid, many Americans would be forced to leave their homes and live in institutions—at greater expense to taxpayers.

–Deficit reduction must not result in opportunity reduction for any American: our budget must preserve the critical health and long-term care initiatives that enable 8 million persons with disabilities to remain healthy, participate in their communities, and live up to their potential.

–America can and must make good on its promise of opportunity for all.  Abandoning people in these difficult economic times is tantamount to abandoning our belief in America’s promise of opportunity.

–We cannot balance the budget on the backs of Americans who are living at the margins already:  those now eligible to receive services must not lose the services on which they rely.

–We can balance the budget by being smart and strategic—without denying basic human dignity to the Americans for whom Medicaid is working.  We can and must look for cost savings by ensuring that initiatives are operating as efficiently as possible.

–We must make every effort to reduce the costs of Medicaid without compromising the ability of recipients to live full and meaningful lives.

–We must make every effort and maximize all available resources, including new technologies, to reduce the cost of Medicaid without impairing the quality of the services provided.

–Given these important considerations, we are interested in working with policy makers on identifying productive ways to address our nation’s economic rebalancing.

We call upon the members of the Supercommittee to reduce our debt without compromising our values, and we welcome the opportunity to work with you on responsible, common-sense responses to our nation’s fiscal challenges.

Mark Perriello is President and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities.  www.aapd.com Stephen Bennett is President and CEO of United Cerebral Palsy www.ucp.org