The chanting of “no justice, no peace” echoed through the city’s Downtown skyscrapers during a rallyto protest Illinois Medicaid cuts Wednesday afternoon.
Protesters from various disability-rights and healthcare groups, holding signs that read “Medicaid cuts kill,” spoke out against the possibility of state and federal cuts to the healthcare program outside Chicago’s Federal Plaza at 230 S. Dearborn St.
The Medicaid program provides healthcare to over 2 million Illinoisans, or about one in six people in the state.
Chicago’s rally was one of many unified pro-Medicaid protests happening nationwide.
Henry Williams, a volunteer at the Stepping Stone Foundation, which works to enrich the lives of developmentally challenged children in Chicago, said the protesters were in solidarity with “the brothers and sisters” marching in Washington, D.C., the same day.
“This is a problem here in this state and across the country,” Williams said from his motorized wheelchair at the rally.
“There are 60 million people who need help and assistance. Instead of getting help and assistance, they get the shaft. They get the shoe.”
Williams, a 35-year resident of Chicago, has been wheelchair-bound for the past six years due to diabetes, and he relies on Medicaid to go to the doctor and pay for his medication
“If it wasn’t for Medicaid, I would have to pay like $100 for 16 pills,” he said.
The protesters worry cuts may happen to the program soon, as both Illinois and the federal government are deep in debt.
“We are the first ones on the line to get cut,” Williams said. “We disabled people are always being pushed back.”
Michelle Robbins-Garcia, community development organizer for Access Living, said many disabled people need home healthcare attendants to assist them. If Medicaid or home healthcare services are cut, they won’t be able to go to work, she said.
Robbins-Garcia said she and her disabled husband need a personal assistant to help them get ready in the morning.
“We can’t do our daily chores or get out of bed and go to work if we don’t have somebody,” she said.
Robbins-Garcia and her husband need Medicaid for their prescriptions as well.
“I am a person that needs to get my medication, and if (Medicaid) is cut, then I’m screwed.”
Earl Smith, a member of Disabled Americans Want Work Now, which is a group within the disability advocacy organization Access Living, said Medicare and Medicaid are the only ways to keep most people with disabilities independent.
“Otherwise, more are stuck with family members taking care of us or institutions taking care of us,” he said.
Smith said in most cases, nursing homes are understaffed, and disabled or elderly people have no independence.
“Their day is based on what the staff is able to do for them, and all of their income goes to support the nursing home. They have very little (money) for anything else,” Smith said.
Williams said U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and Sen. Mark Kirk “need to get on the right side of history.”
“The right side of history is helping people. They are supposed to be our leaders for the people, but they help the lobbyists,” he said
“We don’t have lobbyists – this is our lobby right here.”
- Feds Say Illinois Cannot Ask Medicaid Recipients Income, Residency Information (chicagotalks.org)
- People with Disabilities to Hold Rallies Against Gutting Medicaid Outside of the U.S. Capitol Building and in Several States (prnewswire.com)
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