Anastasia Somoza addresses the Democratic National Convention last summer. She fears that the Republican health care bill will result in Medicaid cuts that will make it harder for disabled Americans to live independently. – © The Associated Press
by Michael Ollove
“The current debate over Medicaid has Anastasia Somoza thinking about the Willowbrook State School, the infamous Staten Island institution for people with developmental disabilities that New York state ordered shut down in 1983, the year Somoza was born.
“After touring the facility in 1965, U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy famously called it ‘a snake pit.’ He described residents ‘living in filth and dirt, their clothing in rags, in rooms less comfortable and cheerful than the cages in which we put animals in a zoo.’ Media investigations exposed similar conditions into the 1970s.
“In recent decades, the country has shifted away from institutions like Willowbrook and toward programs that allow people like Somoza, who has cerebral palsy and spastic quadriplegia, to remain in their own homes. But she and other disability advocates worry that the Medicaid changes President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress are contemplating might make such services less available.”