ADAPT Brings Down the House
Disability Rights Group Ends the Pennsylvania House Session
By Tim Wheat, Boulder ADAPT
ADAPT is proposing to save Pennsylvania $185 million dollars to help the state balance the budget, but state lawmakers were unwilling today to listen the loud chants in the state Capitol demanding a progressive new approach to Medicaid. ADAPT has consistently presented the idea of ending the Medicaid bias but state politicians have not listened to the logic of saving money while serving people better.
"Pennsylvania is just one state in Medicaid crisis," said Philadelphia ADAPT leader Cassie James-Holdsworth. "The fact that our fellow ADAPTers have come in from all over the US to Harrisburg is about making the point that the Medicaid crisis is everyone's crisis."
The savings that ADAPT is proposing are real and substantial. If Pennsylvania used the Community First Choice Option, the state may draw down an enhanced match from the federal Medicaid program. That does not include the natural savings that the state would see from more cost-effective home and community based services rather than expensive institutions.
"We have tried over and over again to get a meeting with Governor Corbett," said Pam Auer of Harrisburg ADAPT. "We have written letters, we have made phone calls. Governor Corbett will not respond, so we are taking the fight for Pennsylvania Medicaid to the place where he does business with the General Assembly."
ADAPT not only attempted to meet with the Governor today, but also asked Senator Jack Corman and Representative William Adolph to adopt ADAPT's ten-point plan to reform Medicaid. ADAPT activists packed into the offices of Corman the Chair of the Senate Appropriations, Adolph the House Chair and Governor Corbett demanding to speak about the ADAPT proposal. Additionally, hundreds of activists filled the Capitol Rotunda and kept-up a steady stream of chanting throughout the day.
"A Pennsylvania Senator with a manual wheelchair has a flunky servant to push her around everywhere while we are the ones who can't get services," said Dawn Russell of Colorado ADAPT. "The level that I am offended is indescribable; how she cannot even push a little button to get around."
At the Governor's office, about thirty activists were kept out by state police, but chanted relentlessly all day. ADAPT activists offered people visiting the governor's office large amounts of cash to get the seemingly shallow policy makers to respond to our request. Activists had printed one-million dollar bills and made a pathway leading to the Governor's office out of the bills. All the Pennsylvania House members in the session had to pass by the symbol of greed and loud chants and songs from activists.
"I was defiantly educated today," said Rep. Merriveto of Williams Port PA.
At Sen. Corman's office activists were initially invited into the office and were led to believe that they would see the Senator soon. After hours of delay, the staff resorted to claim the Senator was willing to see ADAPT if they scheduled a meeting in advance. The bureaucratic run-around caused ADAPT activists to expand the action and activists began to chant and block the aisles of the office. State police did not arrest, but activists were dragged out of the office and the door closed.
One activist's foot was broken in while ADAPT practiced non-violence in response to the rough treatment. Negotiations continued once the activists were in the hallway and were disrupting the Senate hearings with chanting.
"Getting arrested is immaterial," said Michael Bencrowsky of Philadelphia ADAPT. "My Medicaid matters; I am defending my right to live at home."
Rep. Adolph similarly invited protesters into his office and provided ADAPT with a written letter saying his staff would examine the proposal, but on reading the letter, experienced activists rejected the letter as insincere. Shona Eakin of Erie ADAPT looked at Rep. Adolph's letter and said: "This is crap!"
Eventually all the ADAPT activists at the various offices were forced out of the building by the state police. As the officers moved to compel those at the governor's office to leave, the main group from the Capitol Rotunda moved to the atrium on the House side of the building. The chants were thunderous and unstopping combining with the chants of those outside the Governor's office: "I'd rather go to jail than to die in a nursing home!"
Million-dollar bills rained down on the activist chanting below. The noise became so intense, the Pennsylvania House was forced to end the session. Many politicians were escorted past the demonstration by the Capitol police and out of the building. Eventually all ADAPT activists were reunited outside well after dark.
On returning to the hotel, ADAPT met to debrief the action. One experience made a telling analogy of the day.
"I have come to my state Capitol to demand that our State's politicians stop cutting Medicaid home services that could force me to leave my home and go into a nursing facility," said John Gladstone, a Pennsylvania ADAPT activist who has both Medicaid and Medicare and uses a power wheelchair. "I am an older American and I deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Governor Corbett is treating us with a heart of stone."
Read more about ADAPT: History of ADAPT in state capitols
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