Press

NGLTF Statement On Federal Government Shutdown

Date: 
December 18, 1995

As of noon today, the Federal Government has shut down several major federal agencies as budget negotiations continue between Congress and the White House. Following is a statement, attributable to Melinda Paras, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force executive director, on the possible impact of the budget battle.

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The federal government again finds itself in a crisis, forcing the shutdown of key federal agencies. A major issue of debate between the Congress and the President, which has stalled budget negotiations, is the proposal by the Republican leadership to gut the current Medicaid program. The program provides basic health care services for the poor, including older Americans -- many of whom are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered -- low-income children and their families, pregnant women, and individuals with disabilities such as people living with AIDS.

While the shutdown of government agencies is unfortunate, we strongly support the President's willingness to stand up for the principle of health care access for the poor.

The Republicans have proposed to scrap the current Medicaid program, substituting instead a Medigrant program with very few federal requirements. The primary and most drastic change would include turning the Medicaid program over to the states, in the form of block grants, and giving them almost complete discretion on who would receive Medicaid benefits. In addition, the plan also calls for cuts of $163 billion in projected Medicaid spending over the next seven years. These proposals would have a devastating impact on people with AIDS (PWA), who can least afford to absorb these losses.

Medicaid is the major health insurance for at least 40 percent of all persons living with AIDS and up to 90 percent of children with AIDS. Medicaid pays for the prescription drugs relied on by individuals who are HIV-positive and those with AIDS. Without Medicaid coverage, many PWA's would lose their access to the health care system.

Under the proposal put forward by the Republican majority, there is no guarantee of benefits nor a definition of what benefits an eligible individual could receive. There would be 50 different state definitions of "people with disabilities" who could receive assistance, and 50 different benefit packages. In other words, people with AIDS would have no guarantee they would continue to have access to the health care system, including the prescription drugs that for many are a best hope for a longer and better quality of life.

The Republican Medigap proposal is cold-hearted and brutal since it would cut the heart out of the safety net of programs that both Democratic and Republicans have supported in the past. The Republican proposal would gut the Medicaid program in a way that would have a devastating impact on public hospitals, which would have to cut back or discontinue services to those who have no where else to turn for health services.

The answer to skyrocketing health care costs is health care reform, not taking away access to the health care system for the poor and disabled, including people with AIDS and those who are HIV-positive. It's a cruel irony indeed that the very people who worked against health care reform in the last Congress are the very people leading the charge today to destroy the infrastructure relied on by those with no other access to the health care system.

We urge the President to resist turning Medicaid into a block grant program and to stand firm in his commitment to ensure health care availability for low-income children and their families, pregnant women, and individuals with disabilities, including people living with AIDS.

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.