76 Arrested Supporting Medicaid
Noah Wyle busted chanting "My Medicaid Matters!"
By Tim Wheat and Ian Engle
Noah Wyle the star of Falling Skies and more than 75 ADAPT activists were arrested today demanding Congress fully and wisely fund Medicaid. Most important to ADAPT is to prevent cuts, like in the Rep. Paul Ryan budget, to home and community options that will keep people from being forced into expensive institutions and nursing homes.
ADAPT is in Washington DC to reinforce the message from the September rally last year that "My Medicaid Matters." The largest direct-action disability rights organization in the nation has proposed positive ways to make Medicaid more cost efficient and service effective; however ADAPT must defend the Medicaid program from broad and unwise cuts.
"Cutting or changing Medicaid without thoughtful reform has very real life or death consequences for people with disabilities and people who are aging who live on fixed incomes that are significantly below the poverty level," said Marsha Katz of Montana ADAPT. "Washington should be putting our tax dollars into cost-saving community based services, not costly nursing homes and institutions. The time has come to get real about how we spend Medicaid dollars. Medicaid really does matter."
ADAPT has a unique perspective from the user end of the system and recommends reforms to make the system more efficient. ADAPT has proposed: Expanding the use of community-based services, demedicalizing services, expanding consumer directed service options and reorganizing Medicaid services to eliminate wasteful bureaucracy.
Hundreds of ADAPT members lined up in color groups this morning and headed out at 9 a.m. Tim Sullivan, Noah Wyle and Mike Oxford lead the march up to the Canon House Office Building. ADAPT marched "loud and proud" up Capitol Hill and avoided the rain and wind that the group had faced yesterday when ADAPT held its Fun*Run for Disability Rights in Upper Senate Park.
Inside the House office building the group became quiet as the activists lined the halls waiting for each ADAPT member to pass through Security. Just before noon the entire compliment of ADAPT silently gathered in the large rotunda on the Capitol side of the building. The Cannon Building has great acoustics in the 2nd floor rotunda and when ADAPT broke into the chant "My Medicaid Matters!" it was clear what ADAPT was after. At least 50 U.S. Capitol police officers arrived quickly and surrounded the ADAPT activists.
The ADAPT group was comprised of 'walkies' in the middle, securely surrounded by organized concentric circles of people who use power and manual wheelchairs to make it more difficult to arrest the whole. The Capitol Police warnings were drowned out by resounding chants of echoing through the halls of the Canon building.
Donny Scott, participating in his first national ADAPT action from Kansas City said that the most impressive thing for him was watching people from the U.S. House of Representatives offices come flooding in to see what was going on and the look on the faces of these policy-makers when they realized the power of ADAPT to achieve real and positive systemic policy change.
"I'm getting arrested today because my Medicaid services are important to me," said Michelle Fridley of Rochester New York in handcuffs escorted by a Capitol Police officer. "I don't want to live in a nursing home. I have a daughter and I would lose her if I didn't have home and community based services. I'm not going to lose my daughter - I'll do whatever it takes to keep Medicaid."
"To institutionalize a disabled American costs four times as much than to give assistance for independent living," said Mr. Wyle using a figure he heard Sunday night from the US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development when Secretary Donovan visited ADAPT. "This issue is about civil rights, not about medicine. People who have the ability to live in integrated, affordable and accessible housing should have the right to do so."
76 ADAPT activists were arrested and taken to the House office building basement for processing. Those who were not arrested headed for the Dirksen Senate building and paid a visit to Senator Kent Conrad, chair of the Senate Budget Committee.
ADAPT activists took over Sen. Conrad's office and presented demands to the Senator's staff. Jayme Fuglesten the Senator's Health Policy Advisor responded by reading a statement released by Sen. Conrad stating that he does not support the Medicaid block grants and other policies proposed by Representative Paul Ryan. Furthermore, Senator Conrad agreed to meet with ADAPT to work on policies that will end the institutional bias in America.
The ADAPT activists, who were arrested spent ten to sixteen hours being processed and released by the Capitol Police. Noah Wyle did not make it back to the Holiday Inn until after midnight. Like everyone else, Noah stayed in the lobby until nearly 3:00 AM to welcome the returning activists as they were released from jail.
Each returning activist was cheered by ADAPT at the hotel and given a slice of cold pizza.