Advocates for rights of disabled protest Toomey’s support of ACA changes

 Disability activists demonstrate Tuesday outside the office of U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey at the  Custom House in Philadelphia. (Jay Scott Smith/WHYY)

Disability activists demonstrate Tuesday outside the office of U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey at the Custom House in Philadelphia. (Jay Scott Smith/WHYY)

Activists for the rights of the disabled protested the U.S. Senate’s proposed changes to health care Tuesday morning outside of the Philadelphia office of Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania.

Members of ADAPT, most in wheelchairs, blocked doors and led chants imploring Toomey to vote against any cuts to Medicaid.

“It is disgraceful for an elected representative not to meet with his constituents,” said Germán Parodi, lead organizer of the protest. ADAPT has been attempting to get a meeting with Toomey, he said, but to no avail.

Toomey spokesman Steve Kelly said the senator was in Washington today when the group showed up at his Philadelphia office, and he said Toomey hasn’t ignored the group.

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“ADAPT has come to Senator Toomey’s offices across Pennsylvania and Capitol Hill several times in recent months demanding unscheduled meetings. Senator Toomey spoke personally with a group that came to Washington earlier this year,” Kelly said in a statement. “The group has also met with Senator Toomey’s chief-of-staff, in-state regional directors, communications staff, and numerous regional state staffers.”

“He does not represent Pennsylvania,” Parodi said. “And, when the time comes, we’ll vote him out. In the meantime, we’ll be at his door every day until he meets with us and represents us.”

While Republicans in the Senate effectively tabled their latest plan to replace the Affordable Care Act on Monday night, the threat to Medicaid is still very real for Parodi and others.

“If I don’t have someone to help me out of bed so I could come to work — so I can pay my mortgage and maintain my family — I will end up in a nursing home,” he said.

Toomey, who helped write the Senate legislation, has disputed that the plan would cut Medicaid.

Read my statement regarding further Senate action on health care reform:

— Senator Pat Toomey (@SenToomey) July 18, 2017

It would make states pay for more of the costs of extending Medicaid coverage, but Toomey has argued that’s essential to keep costs in check — adding that overall federal spending will still rise.

That has Metiz Armstrong worried.

Armstrong, who was among home health care workers protesting in solidarity with ADAPT, said she works for her mother in West Philadelphia and needs Medicaid to take care of her health and dental costs.

“I wouldn’t be able to go to my doctor’s appointments,” Armstrong said. “I wouldn’t be able to have my dental work done. I was telling a worker here that last Wednesday, I had six teeth taken out. So without that, I wouldn’t be able to get anything done.”

For Parodi, Medicaid is not simply health care, it’s a form of independence and security.

“Medicaid equals my liberty,” he said. “Medicaid pays for a wheelchair that I can use so I’m not dragging myself on the floor. Medicaid covers not only me, but my grandmother’s services at home.

“Without it, we could not be independent citizens.”

Republican leaders in the Senate, who have tabled the latest measure for replacing the Affordable Care Act, had considered  simply repealing the health law instead. Tuesday afternoon, that strategy seemed to fall apart without enough GOP support.

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