Americans with disabilities are leading the charge to save Medicaid. In June and July, Congressional offices were flooded with protesters fighting for the 70 million people who need the program for primary care. Sit-ins, “die-ins,” and mass arrests signaled defiance against the war on healthcare.
The die-in demonstrations began June 22, after Mitch McConnell first announced the Senate’s Trump-don’t-care bill. He was met by over 60 wheelchair-bound protesters occupying his office. The fight continued throughout the recess, and on July 10, synchronized protests occupied congressional offices in 21 states across the country, including Ohio, North Carolina, and Colorado; and in Washington, D.C.
Many protests were led by ADAPT, a group of people with disabilities that uses direct action and civil disobedience to invoke change.
Cops responded with callous brutality. Disabled protesters have been dragged away and one woman was forcefully dumped out of her wheelchair. Hundreds have been locked up since the protests began, proudly shouting they would “rather go to jail than die without Medicaid.”
Activists know they are fighting a two-front war. The Medicaid expansion that covered over 20 million new recipients under the Affordable Care Act would be ended. Trumpcare would also cap the federal government’s Medicaid spending, forcing many more off the rolls. If the “health” bill fails, the Trump budget aims to slash $800 billion from Medicaid, reversing half a century of coverage for the poor, elderly, and disabled.
The campaign is powerful. Millions watched the demonstrations online. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, switched to opposing the bill after a die-in was staged in his Columbus office. But the fight is not over. And there is nothing like the power of standing up against those who would treat people as expendable.