My life changed forever 20 years ago this September when a car accident left me paralyzed from the chest down, putting me in the company of the 13.7% of Americans and 12% of Arizonans living with a mobility disability.
I have been determined to not let my disability keep me from living a full, happy life — but while grit, determination, and unwavering support from friends, family and community can make one’s situation easier, they can’t address the institutional barriers people like me face, such as exorbitant health care costs. That is why the American Rescue Plan is crucial for improving the lives of those with disabilities, and it is why we need President Biden, Senator Mark Kelly, and Arizona’s other Democratic elected officials to keep working tirelessly to advance the needs of those with disabilities.
The pandemic hit everyone hard — this is especially true for the 26% of Americans that live with a disability. Many within this group, myself included, depend on in-person services from caregivers, who often work with several clients across several settings for minimal pay. Many also live or spend significant time in hospital settings and other group facilities. These factors — compounded by the increased vulnerability that so many within this community face as a result of pre-existing health conditions like my autoimmune disorder — have made the pandemic especially frightening for us.
Luckily, President Biden, Senator Kelly, and the rest of Arizona’s Democratic delegation recognize the disparities and heightened risk we face and responded swiftly by passing the ARP — a bold, life-saving relief package that meets the immediate needs of the most vulnerable in our society, including people like me.
Under the ARP, states received a 10% (over $12 billion) boost in federal Medicaid matching funds for Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS), such as in-home health care and group health care facilities — the type of care that so many of us depend on. The package also increases health care subsidies for households making up to 400% of the poverty line — $51,520 for an individual and $106,000 for a family of four — and expands eligibility for these subsidies.
These tax cuts will drastically reduce health care costs for the working and middle-class. As someone who faces astronomical health care costs, they are a game-changer that will help me provide for my family while staying on top of my medical bills. On a broader level, the ARP is getting shots into arms, which makes all of us safer, but especially those who are most vulnerable to Covid because of disabilities or pre-existing conditions. The bill is saving lives, and there is always more work to be done. I’m confident and thankful that President Biden, Senator Kelly, and Democrats in Congress have our backs and will continue to deliver better outcomes for the disability community.
Marcos Castillo is a member of the board for Advancing Arizona.