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In D.C., Housing Works Activists Join Fight For Medicaid

By Julie Turkewitz

September 26, 2011

'We're calling on Congress to protect Medicaid from cuts that will severely damage low-income communities,' said Shirlene Cooper.

"We're calling on Congress to protect Medicaid from cuts that will severely damage low-income communities," said Shirlene Cooper.

Calling on Congress and Obama to protect Medicaid, Housing Works activists joined hundreds of disability rights advocates in front of the Capitol building Wednesday.

Amid cheers, Housing Works' Shirlene Cooper addressed the crowd. "I am a grandmother living with HIV/AIDS," she said. "Medicaid matters to me because I have multiple chronic illnesses, and Medicaid is my one and only option for survival."

She continued: "We're calling on Congress to protect Medicaid from cuts that will severely damage low-income communities [and] folks with disabilities ... If changes are to be made, consumers of Medicaid should be a part of the decision-making process in addressing this issue."

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With the federal government looking to make drastic budget cuts, Medicaid, the health care program for the poor and disabled, is in serious peril. In response, ADAPT, a grassroots coalition of disability rights activists, organized a rally in Washington, D.C. Seventy-five Housing Works clients, volunteers and employees attended.

Their message: Destroying our safety net is not a way to save money.

Earlier this week, President Obama proposed a major debt-reduction plan aimed at cutting more than $3 trillion during the next decade. An estimated $580 billion would be saved through cuts to entitlement programs, including Medicaid.

Changes to Medicaid would have a profound impact on people living with HIV/AIDS. In New York alone, 64,000 of the 120,000 people diagnosed with HIV depend on the program for medical care.

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