State group slams proposal for Medicaid
By Craig Gilbert of the Journal Sentinel May 4, 2011
Washington – A group of Wisconsinites with disabilities vowed Wednesday to keep protesting the Ryan budget after many of them were arrested this week demonstrating in congressional office buildings.
“Representative Ryan is going to be seeing us again sooner or later. . . . We aren’t going away,” said Jerome Holzbauer, a retired Milwaukee schoolteacher who has cerebral palsy.
Holzbauer was arrested Monday with 90 others from Wisconsin and other states while protesting Ryan’s proposal to convert the Medicaid entitlement into block grants to the states. The group had occupied the rotunda of the Cannon House Office Building.
A smaller group of 10 was arrested Tuesday after occupying the front room of Ryan’s office in the Longworth office building for several hours, chanting and yelling.
One of those arrested was Jason Glozier, an organizer in Madison with the group ADAPT, an advocacy and “direct action” group for people with disabilities.
Glozier said the group has been fighting what it calls a bias in the Medicaid system toward institutional treatment as opposed to home-based care. He said the Ryan proposal would exacerbate that problem and have the effect of pushing more disabled people into institutional care.
Glozier said about a dozen Wisconsinites were involved in the protests this week, most of whom got arrested Monday for “unlawful conduct” and released with future court dates. Several spent the night in the Rayburn House Office Building being processed by Capitol Police.
“I’d rather go to jail than die in a nursing home,” Ruth Fox of Minong said of the civil disobedience tactics employed this week. Fox said she has colon cancer.
Ryan staffers met with the protesters Monday in the Cannon building and spoke to them as well in Ryan’s office Tuesday, though the protesters failed in their effort to secure a meeting with Ryan himself. Glozier said his group left Ryan’s office voluntarily after Ryan aides declined to have them removed, then were arrested in the hallway.
Ryan’s office would not comment on the arrests, but issued this statement about his budget proposals:
“Congressman Ryan appreciates the spirited debate on how best to repair our social safety net and avert a debt-fueled economic crisis. Rather than more empty promises from a government that is going bankrupt, Congressman Ryan will continue to advance solutions that strengthen our safety net for society’s most vulnerable, put the federal budget on the path to balance, and our economy on the path to prosperity.”
Medicaid covers acute and long-term care for the poor, disabled and elderly.
Ryan says the changes to Medicaid would give states flexibility; critics say they would result in major long-term cuts.
The Congressional Budget Office says federal Medicaid payments to states would over time be significantly lower under the Ryan plan than under existing law.