When Felix Moffit was a baby, he developed and grew at the same rate as his twin sister. But at about a year and a half, he started to regress. He became completely nonverbal and was diagnosed with autism at age 2.
Felix qualified for a children’s long-term support waiver, funding that enables children with disabilities to receive services at home, rather than an institution. This allowed his family to get autism therapy that exceeded what their private insurance would cover. The therapy can be upwards of $100,000 for a year, and private insurance only covered about half of that, his mother Anna Moffit said.
Thanks to that therapy, Felix, now 10, can say about 100 words like “mom,” “school,” “pool” and “dog.” The next goal is learning to read.
But the waiver, and other programs that made Felix’s progress possible, are funded by Medicaid, and they’re potentially under threat, said Moffit, a member of the Madison School Board.
Moffit and other disability advocates in Madison say that restructuring Medicaid could lead to drastic cuts to crucial programs that help individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities thrive and contribute to their communities.
“This will have a dramatic and negative impact on some of the most vulnerable people in our community,” Moffit said.
The way Medicaid is currently set up, the federal government pays 60 percent of Wisconsin’s Medicaid costs. There’s no limit in this system; the more the state spends, the more the federal government supplements that spending. But the proposed American Health Care Act (AHCA) would put a cap on federal funds.
Dane County has taken advantage of the current system, using Medicaid to create a rich system of support for individuals with disabilities, said Lisa Pugh, state director of the Arc Wisconsin, an organization that promotes the right of individuals with disabilities.
The county is invested in helping individuals with disabilities integrate into their neighborhoods, she said, and consequently 80 percent of adults with developmental disabilities have jobs in the community.
“That is a direct result of the 60-40 funding match,” Pugh said.
Anne Morgan Giroux has a 22-year-old daughter with an intellectual disability. She lives in her own apartment and works over 30 hours a week at Noodles and Company and Target.
“She is able to do all this because of what she gets through Medicaid,” Giroux said. “A lot of times I think people think that people on Medicaid are a drain on the system.”
The AHCA proposes an entirely different federal-state set up: a block grant (a set amount of Medicaid funding for each state) or a per capita basis (a set amount of funding for each Medicaid enrollee). States would pick up the tab for anything spent over the limit.