Opinion | These Americans Helped Save Health Care. Don’t Forget Them Now.

By Mia Ives-Rublee

Ms. Ives-Rublee is the director of the Disability Justice Initiative at the Center for American Progress.

As Congress debates President Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda and negotiates a $3.5 trillion spending bill, at least one crucial part of the bill is being weakened. The House Energy and Commerce Committee cut Mr. Biden’s original promise of $400 billion in funding for home- and community-based services by more than half, to $190 billion over 10 years. These essential services help disabled people and seniors receive the care they need, giving them options to live in communities and out of congregate settings like groups homes, nursing homes and long-term rehabilitation centers. Those services can include meal preparation, cleaning and other chores, assistance with dressing and transportation. Senators are now negotiating the bill, giving home- and community-based service advocates an opportunity to push for more funding.

Importantly, those advocates have mobilized several Democratic members of Congress to commit to reforming Supplemental Security Income, a key antipoverty program, in the spending plan. However, the House Ways and Means Committee, which is in charge of adding it to the package, did not include the measure. That omission risks leaving many disabled people behind, and advocates for the disabled are pushing to ensure these critical measures are added back in when the bill lands in the Senate.

I provided testimony on Tuesday to the Senate Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions and Family Policy, urging senators to address the needs of disabled beneficiaries. Nearly one-fourth of U.S. adults have a disability, many of whom rely on S.S.I. or home- and community-based services to survive. Allowing these proposed reductions and omissions to stand would be more than just ethically wrong; it would also amount to an insult to the disabled communities that have for decades rallied around and faithfully supported progressive agendas.

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