A few weeks ago many of you participated in CASP’s virtual round table during which the impact of repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on Autism services was discussed. Since that time the House leadership has released proposed legislation to repeal and replace the ACA.
On Thursday, the House of Representatives is going to vote on the Affordable Health Care Act of 2017 (AHCA), which would repeal the ACA and include historic changes to Medicaid. We all need to voice our concerns to Congress NOW. As written it could have a significant negative impact on individuals with autism across the country. In particular, the AHCA would radically change and sharply reduce federal funding for Medicaid across the lifespan (see fact sheet from the Arc for more detail).
It also has the potential to eliminate the federal requirement that Medicaid benchmark plans provide essential health benefits (EHB) which include mental and behavioral health services. States would then have the authority to determine minimum requirements for insurance plan coverage in their states.
Further, the proposed legislation also has the potential to undo the much-needed protections offered by the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act which requires insurers to provide equal coverage for mental health benefits (through which behavioral services are often categorized) and medical/surgical benefits.
Coverage for autism services have come a long way in the last two decades, aided by the ACA and state mandates for services. Don’t let that stop now!
As providers of behavioral health services, your voice is critical! Please contact your Members of Congress to urge them to oppose any reduction in coverage or access to critical mental and behavioral health services. See below for more specific recommendations and links for contacting your legislators.
It is important for you to ACT NOW because this Thursday’s vote is the first major step for the bill to become a law, before it goes to Senate for final approval and the White House for the President’s signature.
Now, more than ever, we must come together as providers to protect the services for the individuals we serve.
Emily Callahan, PhD, BCBA-D
Action Steps for Contacting Your Legislators
Calling your Members’ of Congress offices is a proven effective way of advocating. Congressional offices give greater consideration to advocacy outreach that takes effort, making phone calls is more consequential than emails. Calling also does not require a large time commitment, because staff who answer the phones will usually take a message and pass it to their colleague who works on the issue you are calling about.
Below are steps you can take to call your Congressional office in Washington, DC and a script for those calls.
Who are my Representatives? Click Here
How can I find the contact information for my Representatives and Senators? Click Here
Option 1: Call the Congressional switchboard:
Due to the current high amount of calls to offices in DC, you might have to call several times before you get through or leave voicemail after selecting options on a touchtone menu. However, advocates using the switchboard have had more success talking to staff than those calling offices directly.
“Hello. I am a constituent who cares deeply about policies that impact individuals with autism. I am calling to voice my concerns about the AHCA in its current form. The proposed changes to Medicaid will have a significant negative impact on services for individuals with autism. Among others, people with disabilities need this funding to stay healthy, protect their safety, and learn skills that will allow them to be a part of their communities. Thank you for your hard work answering the phones, but please stress to the Member of Congress that the AHCA, as written, has the potential to do significant harm to people with intellectual or developmental disabilities.”
Option 2: Call in-state offices for your Members of Congress:
Using the following link, find your representatives, click on their name. You should be taken to their web page and in-state contact information is often found there.
Action steps and script adapted from materials published by the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR).