Update: Disability protesters ordered back to court

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The District of Columbia may be taking a hardline on a group of disability activists whom were arrested protesting proposed Medicaid cuts in April.

DC Taking Hard Line on Protesters?

The District Court for the District of Columbia ordered 14 protesters to appear in court May 22. Originally, the district court ordered all 74 arrested protesters to make an appearance, but subsequently waived the order for 60 of the activists, including actor Noah Wyle.

Calling the order “the single most punitive act on disability activists in more than 20 years,” ADAPT, the protest organizer, said the order was the first time its activists have ever been summoned to court for their direct action tactics in nearly three decades of protests.

Rahnee Patrick of Chicago ADAPT pointed out that the majority of those due to appear are among the poorest of the poor.

“Many of the people who were arrested are living on fixed incomes of less than $700 a month,” she said in an ADAPT news release. “The judge is ordering us to pony up thousands in plane and hotel costs at short notice to appear in court. On one hand, the federal government is looking to cut what little Medicaid supports we do get; on the other, the courts are looking to penalize us even more. This is a classic example of guiding the system to do its worst.”

The original article from April 29 begins here. 

Hundreds of disability activists swarmed the nation’s capital for three days of activism starting April 23, protesting Congressional proposals to cut Medicaid benefits and the federal program’s “institutional bias” in its housing services for people with disabilities.

The Obama Administration responded April 27 by releasing long-awaited rules for the Community First Choice Option, a new programs from the Obama health care law designed to incentive deinstitutionalization efforts at the state level.

Under the program, the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services will provide six percent in additional funding to states that meet the set of guidelines released April 27. These guidelines requires states to establish a stakeholder council, consisting largely of people with disabilities, to monitor incentives in the state’s Medicaid programs to move people from larger, institutional settings, to more integrated, home and community based services, according to a Department of Health and Human Services news release.

These settings must provide residents “daily living, instrumental activities of daily living, and health-related tasks through hands-on assistance, supervision, and/or cueing,” and provide appropriate services to ensure individuals are living in the most integrated settings according to their needs.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Supreme Court’s 1999 Olmstead decision, states are forced to provides to services to ensure the unnecessary segregation of people with disabilities.

“We know that people frequently prefer to receive services in their own homes and communities whenever possible. The rule and demonstration announced today give people choice and provide states with flexibility to design programs that better meet the needs of beneficiaries,” Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in the release. “Prior to passage of the Affordable Care Act, many families had few choices beyond nursing homes or other institutions for their loved ones. The actions taken today will help change that and can lead to better health for these individuals.”

For protest organizer ADAPT, a disability rights group known for its direct action tactics, the release of the rules is a long sought victory. The Administration originally announced that the rules would be released in October 2011.

“This is a major policy and advocacy victory for disability rights,” said Bruce Darling, a member of ADAPT from Rochester, N.Y., told Disability Scoop. “The release of the regulations means we will now have to work state by state to ensure that every person with a disability has the same access to community living as everyone else.”

On April 23, 76 activists were arrested protesting at the Cannon House office building in Washington DC. Hundreds of protesters, many of them in wheelchairs, filled the building’s rotunda. On April 25, the protesters blocked the entrance to the Department of Health and Human Service’s building, prompting a meeting with federal officials regarding the Community First Choice Option.

ADAPT specifically targeted a plan from Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis) that would cut an estimated $810 billion from Medicaid during the next decade by block granting the program. Protests against a similar proposal from ADAPT resulted in almost 100 arrests in May 2011.

“Cutting or changing Medicaid without thoughtful reform has very real life or death consequences for people with disabilities and people who are aging who live on fixed incomes that are significantly below the poverty level,” said Marsha Katz who traveled from Montana, in ADAPT’s Preaction Statement. “Washington should be putting our tax dollars into cost-saving community based services, not costly nursing homes and institutions.”

Also April 27, Sebelius announced the first 16 recipients of grants from the Independence at Home demonstration program, a newly created program to test the effectiveness of home-based services for chronically ill Medicaid beneficiaries.