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ACA Repeal Called "Devastating" for People with Disabilities

Repealing the ACA could result in eliminating benefits such as rehabilitation therapy. (Roger Mommaerts/Flickr)
Repealing the ACA could result in eliminating benefits such as rehabilitation therapy. (Roger Mommaerts/Flickr)
January 20, 2017

NEW YORK - Advocates for people with disabilities say dismantling the Affordable Care Act would be catastrophic for them.

Repealing the ACA would turn back the clock on progress toward increasing independence and opportunities for this population over the last quarter-century, said Susan Dooha, executive director of the Center for Independence of the Disabled New York, including protections against being denied insurance based on health status or disability.

"The Affordable Care Act has a provision called Section 1557 that has helped protect people from discrimination in insurance," she said, "and that would go away."

She said requirements to provide comprehensive benefits - including mental health services, wheelchairs and rehabilitation therapies - that people with disabilities need also could be lost.

When the ACA went into effect, Dooha said, premiums for private insurance and for small employers were cut in half. Key to that is the individual mandate that requires everyone, including those who are young and healthy, to buy insurance.

"If everyone is no longer in the market together," she said, "people who have coverage now who are paying their own way are not going to be able to afford it."

Congress already has passed budget resolutions calling for legislation to roll back provisions of the Affordable Care Act, but no replacement legislation has been introduced.

One provision already on the chopping block is Medicaid expansion, which Dooha noted has made it possible for many people with disabilities to find work without jeopardizing their health benefits.

"Losing the coverage that has allowed us to work will force people back into a level of dependency that they don't need and don't want," she said.

Dooha said her concern is that repeal of the Affordable Care Act and threatened changes to Medicaid would be a massive shift of health-care costs onto those who can least afford them.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY