Erik McGregor Photography

Erik McGregor is a New York City based artist, photographer and activist.

Elderly, disabled and others who rely on Medicaid stage political theater to protest Republican plan to convert Medicaid into “Block Grants” or other limited lump sums that will decrease coverage in coming years 

New York – On Tuesday March 21, 2017; outside the NYC Federal Building (26 Federal Plaza, Broadway between Worth and Duane), which contains Medicaid offices, hundreds of New Yorkers who rely on Medicaid, including seniors and people with disabilities, will conduct political theater to protest congressional Republicans’ plan to remake Medicaid. 

The Congressional Budget Office has said that the plan would push millions off Medicaid in coming years and provide less Medicaid funding and coverage overall in the form of fixed sums (often called “block grants”) to states. 

As part of the political theater, real-life Medicaid recipients carried large lightweight blocks (symbolizing block grants; see image below) reading “We Need Medicaid For…” and then personally filled in. 
But then, protesters playing “Billionaires” and “Money Heads” seized the blocks from them and use them to build a wall that “blocks” the recipients from life-saving healthcare. (Republican health plans would include massive tax breaks for the wealthy.)

“We’re using blocks to show that Medicaid block grants, or any changes that rob Medicaid of its longtime entitlement status for the needy and turns it into flat sums per state, will ‘block’ those who need it most from the coverage they need,” says Mark Milano, an openly HIV-positive member of the direction action group Rise & Resist, which staged a “cough-in” at a Trump hotel in NYC in January to demand the retention of Obamacare. 

Rise & Resist has planned Tuesday’s action with groups including the Self-Advocacy Association of New York State. 

“The need for Medicaid among the poor, elderly, and people with disabilities is simply too great to cap down coverage,” says Jennifer Bartlett, an adjunct professor at the Borough of Manhattan Community College who is living with cerebral palsy. 

Bartlett notes that Medicaid provides health coverage for much of the poorest third of the population–including 10 million people with disabilities and about 65 percent of all nursing-home residents. Under the GOP plan, 14 million fewer people would be enrolled in Medicaid by 2026.
The timing of the action Tuesday is especially important as GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan has said he wants the House to pass a bill repealing and replacing Obamacare (which has expanded Medicaid coverage) passed by next Thursday, March 23, the seventh anniversary of Obamacare’s signing. 

And the location is important as well: Almost a third of all New York State residents rely on Medicaid.

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