Wendy Radcliff: Parents sleeping more easily after Sen. Capito’s announcement (Gazette)

By By Wendy Radcliff

“As I have said before, I did not come to Washington to hurt people.” -- Sen. Shelley Moore Capito

As you know, those of us with the Mountaineer Autism Project have watched with trepidation as the efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act have unfolded. Early on, it became clear that Sen. Shelley Moore Capito could play a pivotal role in the passage or demise of the Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA).

On Tuesday, Senator Capito played that pivotal role.

Along with Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Capito declared that they would not vote to repeal the ACA without a replacement. This was enough to all but end this round of efforts to change health care as we know it.

This is great news for the autism community for two main reasons.

For one, the BCRA would have potentially ended what is known as the “Essential Health Benefits” requirement, which requires insurance companies to cover critical care and pre-existing conditions. Insurance plans are all but worthless to those with autism without this requirement.

Secondly, Medicaid would have been cut or capped, and this would have been devastating for kids with autism, and other disabilities. Medicaid is a complicated program and incredibly difficult to understand, but it does more than just provide health care for those living under 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

Which isn’t to say that this isn’t incredibly important. There are kids with autism living in this demographic, and they need services.

But Medicaid is much more than this — it provides waivers so kids from low and middle-income families can still work and thrive. Autism services can be incredibly expensive. My husband and I have good paying jobs and it is still an overwhelming expense. I can’t imagine what it must be like to folks working minimum wage jobs or unable to work because they must care for their child at home.

Medicaid covers health care services in schools. If your child has autism and an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) in our state, Medicaid helps cover the costs for services.

By cutting or capping — again, this is essentially the same as cutting — Medicaid, the Senate would have made states choose who of the most vulnerable of our Medicaid recipients would have received services.

“As I have said before, I did not come to Washington to hurt people.”

Capito said this in her statement, when announcing that she would not support an ACA repeal without replacement.

While she was talking specifically about keeping West Virginians under Medicaid expansion covered, we know that her efforts have kept us from playing a mean game of musical chairs, where kids with autism could have had the seat — their security — pulled right out from under them.

So thank you, Sen. Capito. For the first time in many months, we will all sleep a little easier tonight.

Wendy Radcliff is a Charleston lawyer and board member of Mountaineer Autism Project.

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