New Tax Bill May Leave People with Disabilities Without Healthcare

HOST INTRO: Congressional lawmakers continue to meet about the Republican tax bill this week. A key concern is the end of the individual care mandate, which critics say will leave millions of Americans without healthcare coverage. That particularly worries people with disabilities, who say it could cut them off from essential long-term care. Sarah Wyman (SA-ruh WY-man) spoke with advocates hoping to change the bill.

 

WYMAN 1
It’s holiday season at Macy’s Herald Square. Sparkly snowflake decorations hang from the ceiling, Christmas music tinkles softly through the speakers and kids run through the aisles, excited to meet Santa Claus.

 

But as they near the bank of elevators, the sound of Christmas is drowned out by chanting:

 

[SOUND: protest chant — “Disabled lives matter! Disabled lives matter! Disabled lives matter!]

 

About 40 people are marching and wheeling through Macy’s to protest issues facing the disabled community. And for Terrea Mitchell, the new tax bill is at the top of that list.

 

MITCHELL 1
You need to have a big scream. This is not acceptable. And we will fight this. (0:05)

 

WYMAN 2

Mitchell is visually and medically disabled. Social Security – and Medicare – help her, but they don’t cover everything. Last July, she says she was hospitalized, and it ended up costing her more $5,000 out of pocket—that’s after Medicare reimbursements.

 

MITCHELL 2
So I can’t afford that. And I get maybe $15,000 a year. So that’s a third of my income. (0:08)

 

WYMAN 3

Mitchell says she’s is worried those costs will grow even higher if the Republican tax plan eliminates the health insurance mandate that was a key part of the Affordable Care Act. It mandates all Americans buy health insurance to keep costs low. But without the individual mandate, healthy people could opt out, and, Mitchell says, costs could go up for people who really need insurance.

 

MITCHELL 3
It will literally kill us. It can literally be a death sentence for people with disabilities if they can’t get their medical care. (0:08)

 

[SOUND: protest sounds]

 

WYMAN 4

Shoppers stop to watch and take pictures. Mitchell can’t see the crowd gathering along the aisle ahead of her, but she knows they’re finally listening.

 

[Fade out protest sounds]

 

WYMAN 5
A mile south of Macy’s in an office a block down from Union Square, Jess Powers’s laptop is open on her desk.

 

POWERS 1
A lot of things are at stake right now.

 

Powers is the communications director at the Center for the Independence of the Disabled, New York. Or CIDNY.

 

It’s her job to get people with disabilities to protest the tax bill – by any means necessary. This week, she’s been blasting social media with phone numbers and Twitter handles for senators who voted for the bill. She’s had her hands full.

 

POWERS 2
Sometimes it’s overwhelming and sometimes you feel like ok we’re having an impact. (0:19)

 

WYMAN 6
Susan Dooha is CIDNY’s executive director. Like most of their staff, she has a disability—traumatic brain injury and depression—and she’s vocal about how the tax bill would affect her. Last weekend, she was arrested during a protest in Washington, D.C.

 

DOOHA 2
It was one of the more powerful experiences of my life. When you see the people whose lives will be devastated putting their own bodies on the line, I think it has got to move people. (0:18)

 

WYMAN 7
Dooha says she’s ready to do it again, and next time she wants to see more people on the frontlines with her—especially people with disabilities.

 

DOOHA 3
We are going to continue to fight until we win, and we can do it together. (0:10)

 

WYMAN 8
As long as the tax bill remains on the table, disability rights activists will keep fighting.

 

[SOUND: protest chant — “Disabled lives matter! Disabled lives matter! Disabled lives matter!]

 

Sarah Wyman, Columbia Radio News.

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