754 Williamson Street, Madison, WI 53703
Friday, March 10, 2017
The Honorable Paul Ryan
1223 Longworth HOB
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Speaker Ryan:
On behalf of the Wisconsin Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired (WCBVI), we wish to convey our concerns regarding the House’s proposed American Health Care Act. The mission of the WCBVI is to promote the dignity and independence of the people of Wisconsin who are blind or visually impaired through providing vision services, advocating legislation and educating the public. It is our opinion that this proposed health care bill, as it currently stands, jeopardizes the economic well-being and independence of our constituents for the following reasons.
First, with regard to Medicaid, the per capita caps for people who are blind or disabled are of significant concern. Many people who are blind or visually impaired face economic challenges, because of high levels of unemployment and underemployment, due to employer bias, lack of accessible transportation and training options. Thus, like other groups of citizens with disabilities, people who are blind or visually impaired, out of necessity, tap into public assistance programs like Medicaid for meeting basic needs. The per capita caps and pre-determined funding filtered to states will result in loss of benefits, putting people at medical and financial risk, especially when they may have eye conditions requiring ongoing treatment and other complex health conditions.
Second, the loss of Medicaid Essential Health Benefits puts further economic strain on individuals and their families. Typically, people with vision impairments pay for adaptive devices used to assist with mobility, reading/writing, work and daily living activities, out-of-pocket. Additionally, medications for eye diseases, such as macular degeneration and glaucoma, are very costly. Thus the loss of Medicaid Essential Health Benefits, such as prescription drug coverage, would create enormous financial burdens and could leave some conditions untreated.
Third, re-determining Medicaid eligibility every six months is unfairly punitive. People with vision loss related to chronic, degenerative eye conditions and traumatic injury, such as our veterans, usually do not re-gain their sight. This requirement would place an unnecessary burden on a large part of our constituency.
Fourth, the American Medical Association and AARP have already clearly outlined their concerns regarding tax credits for aging adults or lower income wage earners, who purchase health care. Our concerns mirror theirs. In fact, these populations will pay a disproportionately higher price for insurance compared with their peers who earn higher incomes and with those who are younger.
Finally, we urge you to reconsider the current provisions of the American Health Care Act to provide increased, rather than decreased, access to Medicaid for those who need assistance and to create an equitable, less punitive financial structure for those able to purchase their own health insurance. The great majority of people who are blind and visually impaired have a strong desire to make vibrant and meaningful contributions to society through employment, community involvement and raising families. We believe the burden that inequitable or limited health care options would create severely disadvantages people who are blind and visually impaired from achieving their fullest potential.
Thank you for your consideration. Please reach out to us to discuss this further.
Denise Jess Chris Richmond
CEO/Executive Director Chair, Board of Directors
Committee Chair, Legislative Committee