Group Rallies Against Cuts To Federal Budget, Fears Impact On Healthcare

Aug 30, 2017

A crowd of children and adults rally outside of Little Rock's Stephens Elementary School.
Credit Daniel Breen / KUAR News

Dozens of parents and children rallied against proposed cuts to the federal budget in Little Rock Wednesday, saying they would severely impact Medicaid services in Arkansas. Arkansas Community Organizations hosted the “Children for Healthcare” Day of Action across from Stephens Elementary School, where kids wrote symbolic postcards addressed to U.S. Rep. French Hill.

Gwendolynn Millen Combs teaches at Stephens Elementary. She’s also an Air Force veteran, and a Democratic hopeful for Hill’s seat in the House.

“Arkansas has done an amazing job of setting an example for how state-run Medicaid can be set up and be beneficial to people, particularly children,” Combs said.

Hill, a Republican representing Arkansas’s 2nd Congressional District, was urged by the group to vote against new cuts to Medicaid included in the House Budget Committee’s proposal.

“I think that it’s important for our members of Congress to be able to relate to the people that have challenges in life, that work hard, that have concerns about healthcare, that have concerns about all kinds of issues,” Combs said.

Among the protesters was Kaitlin Lott, who is a mother of two. She receives coverage under the Affordable Care Act, and her kids are covered by Arkansas’s Medicaid program for children, known as ARKids A. She says her son Drayden is reliant on treatment for his conditions, including ADHD and autism, which she couldn’t afford without ARKids.

“At one point they told me that, until we addressed the ADHD, his was severe enough we had to medicate and they told me if we didn’t medicate, he couldn’t be put in normal schools,” Lott said. “Now he’s a [Gifted and Talented] student in a public school, and that’s a big deal, and we need to keep him on that track.”

The budget proposed by the House Budget Committee would cut up to $1.5 trillion from Medicaid over ten years, and restructure the program by establishing per capita caps. Lott says without ARKids, her son wouldn’t be able to receive proper care.

“We rely on ARKids for those services. There’s no way I could cover it out of pocket, the amount that he requires,” Lott said. “He’s a very smart child, and I want him to be able to succeed, and without the medical help, he can’t.”

Hill has in the past voted for the American Health Care Act, which was the Republican healthcare proposal earlier this year. The proposed House budget would also include rollbacks on Affordable Care Act policies and a $487 billion decrease in Medicare spending over 10 years.