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Would Special Needs Children Lose Coverage Under Trumpcare? Here's Why It's Possible

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The recently introduced American Health Care Act (which many are calling "Trumpcare"), has a lot of vulnerable populations worried. And because of its stated intent to dramatically reduce the number of people covered under Medicaid, they have good reason to be. Clearly, low-income people would lose out with the implementation of the GOP's plan, while the more prosperous would win big. But could the effects of the constriction of Medicaid really be so far-reaching that even special needs children would lose coverage under Trumpcare? As the controversial bill is currently written, it's certainly a possibility for some — but not a given.

In a PBS NewsHour segment that aired March 7, shortly after the AHCA was finally unveiled, Sabrina Colette of Georgetown University’s Health Care Policy Institute called Medicaid a "financial lifeline" both for low-income families and "kids with disabilities." But when the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analyzed the proposal that many Republican leaders hope will replace President Obama's 2010 health care law, the Affordable Care Act, it determined that it would leave millions currently covered under Medicaid uninsured in the next decade, Rolling Stone reported. While the ACA allowed states to expand the number of people covered under the government program, the AHCA aims to roll that back.

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Specifically, the GOP's plan would reduce Medicaid spending by nearly one-quarter. That's $880 billion during the first 10 years alone, meaning that in that timeframe, 14 million people — many of them disabled, children, and the poor — would lose access to their health insurance completely from the gutting of Medicaid alone. That, combined with a rise in premiums projected to continue until a 2026 decrease in costs, would result in a whopping 24 million more people going uninsured, CNN reported. That means a total of 52 million people would not have health insurance by that year, as the current law would likely leave 28 million off plans.

For its part, the Trump Administration has fought back against the negative CBO findings. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price told reporters that AHCA supporters in the White House "disagree strenuously" with the report, according to Politico. "It's just not believable is what we would suggest," he said. House Speaker Paul Ryan, on the other hand, denied that the CBO report presented a problem at all, telling Fox News that he was "encouraged" by it and that it had "exceeded his expectations."

People with disabilities and their advocates are taking much less kindly to the bill. According to Pacific Standard, the Republican plan would convert Medicaid spending to a capped "per capita" system instead of the current one that affords them funds based on actual expenses. This would mean much less spending on health care for poor and low-income people in general (but not because they don't need the funds — rather, because there will be caps on how much they can access).

This prompted the Center for American Progress to host a symposium to share real people's stories to fight "policies that would put the health, education, and economic security of people with disabilities and their families at grave risk." That's because, the organization wrote, the AHCA "would make dramatic cuts to Medicaid, decimating services that enable people with disabilities to live independently and work."

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"The entirety of the disability community, people with developmental disabilities, physical disabilities, psychological disabilities, veterans, seniors, are are all coming to the table to condemn and push back against these utterly wrongheaded proposals," Ari Ne'eman, CEO of MySupport.com, said during the event, Pacific Standard reported.

On the upside, the AHCA would uphold one of the most popular provisions of the Affordable Care, which barred insurers from denying a person insurance because of a preexisting condition. This, at least, is good news for kids with special needs — as long as their families could afford coverage under the new system in the first place.