Disability rights advocates cheer defeat of latest health care bill as they gear up for next battle

Sep 27, 2017

Capitol police arrest a disability rights protester.
Credit Stephanie Woodward

Local disability rights advocates say they and others are starting to make progress in their efforts to change the national conversation around health care.

Over 20 Rochester-area residents were among the 101 people arrested for disrupting a Senate health care hearing in Washington on Monday.  It was the second time this year protesters saw Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act fail.

"We're feeling relieved for the time being, but we know that for some reason, this bill just won't die,” said Stephanie Woodward. “It keeps coming back and we've been fighting this the whole year now. We are going to celebrate now and get ready to fight the next one."

Woodward, the director of advocacy at the Center for Disability Rights, says health care repeal efforts would cut Medicaid and force people with disabilities to move out of the community and into underfunded nursing facilities where their lives are at risk.

While she admits she and other protesters can't take all the credit for the failure of the latest "repeal and replace" bill, Woodward believes more Americans are paying attention to the concerns of people with disabilities.

About 40 Rochester residents made the trip to Washington, D.C., for the hearing this week. They’re expected to return to Rochester by bus on Thursday. Woodward said while they are celebrating the failure of the Graham-Cassidy bill, which did not have enough votes to proceed, they will be back to challenge members of Congress the next time they try to cut Medicaid.

"All those old, white men don't use Medicaid and they have no idea what it's like to be a disabled person who is scared to death of losing their freedom,” she said. “I don't think it occurs to them that there are Americans out here who need Medicaid in order to have the same liberties as every other American."

This story is reported from WXXI’s Inclusion Desk.