June 22 marked the 18th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Olmstead v. L.C., a landmark case in determining the rights of people with disabilities. The court held that institutionalization of people who can participate and contribute to our community is illegal and unfairly perpetuates unwarranted assumptions that people with disabilities are incapable or unworthy of participating in community life.

In an ironic turn of events, June 22 also was the day the U.S. Senate released its version of what has been renamed the “Better Care Reconciliation Act.” This proposal would repeal Medicaid (known here as MaineCare) as we know it, strip gains made through Olmstead and mean the end of meaningful and integrated health care for people with disabilities.

For about 72,000 Mainers with disabilities, access to MaineCare means access to equality. After hundreds of years of segregation and meaningless death, Maine emerged as a leader with the closure of the Pineland Center and providing comprehensive home and community-based service.

The passage of the Senate bill would mean nearly $1 trillion stripped from Medicaid, including community-based care services such as private-duty nursing services, respiratory care services and diagnostic, screening, preventive and rehabilitative services.

It is difficult to understand what about this act is “better.” It is not “better” than the House bill and it proposes deeper cuts to Medicaid; not “better” than the jobs and resources lost as our rural hospitals and outpatient services go out of business; not “better” than the lives of our loved ones lost because of lack of access to health care. It is not an act of betterment. It is an act of cruelty, and we deserve better.

We, the members of the Maine Association for Community Service Providers, thank Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King for standing against this bill and blocking this travesty from affecting the people of Maine.

Lydia Paquette

executive director, Maine Association

for Community Service Providers