Emboldened By Election, Texas Republicans Kill Medicaid Funding For Kids With Disabilities (UPDATE)

UPDATE: This article has gotten a lot of feedback, with critics taking issue with some of its conclusions. The headline in particular seems to have gotten stuck in a lot of craws, which – upon reflection – is perhaps warranted. Politifact Texas recently filed a “fact check” on the article and rated it “Pants on Fire” based on the premise that these cuts were done prior to the election, not before as the title seemed to imply.

The fact that so many people had this interpretation of the piece means it’s probably not them, it’s me. The headline could have been better. It was done in a way that was meant to make a certain point (which I’ll get to in a second), but it has clearly missed its mark. Mea culpa.

When I set out to write the piece, my point was to reflect on the way Republicans have repeatedly been allowed to get away with reprehensible legislation with little-to-no political consequences. I think the body of the piece does this better than the title. Writing “emboldened by election” was my way to nodding to that point. Instead, it reads for many the way Politifact Texas interpreted it: Republicans did this because of the election.

That isn’t true. That’s a bad title.

Within the body, there are a couple of things Politifact Texas took issue with that strike me as odd: They are upset that I argued the cuts would hurt children with disabilities because the spokeswoman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission Carrie Williams promised to “monitor” the situation to ensure care was still provided. That’s wonderful. I’m happy to hear it. But that doesn’t excuse the cuts… moving money around, scrounging up cash elsewhere, defunding something else to fill in the gaps, however which way you make it work, the fact is, less money is going into Medicaid and that hurts even with bandaids.

Politifact Texas, by and large, provides the facts dispassionately, but not always so. Strangely at one point the author tries to “prove” the Medicaid cuts don’t really matter by dismissing the $373 million in cuts as not that bad considering the total budget, an argument tantamount to saying losing a finger isn’t awful because you have nine more. It still hurts. It still sucks. You’d still miss it.

Overall, the budget builds in $373 million in reductions in state spending on Medicaid through the two years. For the fiscal year through August 2017, $26 billion in state money was budgeted for Medicaid.

These days there are heroes working in nearly every field fighting tooth-and-nail to keep life-saving, life-enhancing programs afloat in the wake of budget cuts. The fact that these herculean efforts sometimes pay off doesn’t make the pit in my stomach go away. The fact that, say, Planned Parenthood raised a ton of money from concerned private citizens following the threat of defunding doesn’t make it “cool” to let Congress strip its government dollars because it has enough cash now. That’s not the point.

In fact, it is this kind of sleight-of-hand that is being exploited by lawmakers to avoid culpability for their policies, which allows us to circle back to my original argument: Republicans are systematically defunding large parts of the social safety net and have yet to suffer a comeuppance for it. If they weren’t emboldened before then they are now.

Check out Politifact Texas’s post and see what you think. Personally, it made me regret my title, but not my point.

Below is the original post.

It’s been a noted repeatedly that many Republicans, particularly ones stuck in poverty or in need of government assistance, vote time and again against their own self-interests. Whether it’s being exploited by the Christian Right’s fear-mongering about gay marriage or Donald Trump’s fear-mongering about immigrants, these voters support the party that doesn’t support them.

And if that’s not infuriating enough, they just helped re-elect a party that is going after their children, particularly the most vulnerable of them. Texas, a state that for a brief moment during the election looked like it might reject Trump and go blue, instead stuck with Republicans. And this is what they got.

In an all-out assault on the social safety net, Texas Republicans have seized the opportunity to finalize and enact a series of brutal budget cuts. Naturally, when this group of GOPers went looking for places to save money, they focused on programs that helped the poor – welfare and Medicaid. The cuts into medical help were particularly egregious – $350 million evaporated from Medicaid funding in an instant. That means less financial help for the sick. Less coverage for the poor. Less preventative care. Less reimbursements for costly medical procedures. Less lives saved.

But we haven’t even gotten to the worst part yet:

More than a year after lawmakers originally ordered it, Texas announced Monday it will enact significant cuts to the money that it pays therapists who treat vulnerable children with disabilities in two weeks.

Medicaid reimbursement rates are used to pay for pediatric therapy services provided to disabled babies and toddlers. Carrie Williams, spokeswoman for the state’s Health and Human Services Commission, said that Texas will apply cuts on Medicaid rates on Dec. 15 in attempt to achieve savings directed by the Texas Legislature in 2015.

Two weeks before Christmas, the party of “pro-life” is stripping money away from the parents of children and babies with disabilities.

As Stephanie Rubin, the head of an children’s care advocacy group in Texas, notes just what is lost by this heartless action. Republicans aren’t just taking away money, they are taking away the ability to walk, the ability to talk, and go to school.

“This is terrible news for Texas kids with disabilities and developmental delays and their families,” Rubin said. “Kids with autism, speech delays, Down syndrome, and other disabilities and delays rely on these therapies to learn to walk, communicate with their families, get ready for school, and meet other goals.”

In other words, to save some money in the budget, Republicans are robbing these children of their place in society.

Even more insane, Republican officials testified in court during the decision to pass this budget that they have absolutely no idea how the victims would be affected. They just didn’t care.

So this Christmas, Texan might want to take the time to take a hard look at themselves. There was an easy fix to this, an opportunity to reject the heartless cruelty on display from the party that has repeatedly shown no interest in helping them or their families. Instead they voted for the same old group. They voted for tax cuts for the rich and financial ruin for the families of the disabled. They voted for Trump.

Get it together, Texas. It’s not every day you get to have choices as clear as this one, and you blew it.

Featured image via Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

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