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There are two things I’m wondering about Trump’s new Great America that’s coming soon.
The first thing I’m wondering is what it will look like. There is a jolly amusement park just north of Chicago called Six Flags Great America. Maybe that’s what Trump’s Great America will look like. Six Flags Great America sure appears to be a happy happy place from the outside, as you drive by on the interstate. You see great, swooping roller coasters. Around Halloween time, there’s a giant fake spider crawling up the side of one of the roller coasters. Fun!
But I don’t think you’ll find a lot of poor people inside this Great America, unless they work there. Admission at the gate is $71.99 and parking and food and beverages will cost you extra. So maybe this is indeed what Trump’s Great America will look like—people with money having a grand old time while poor people can only afford to window shop from outside the gates.
The other thing I’m wondering about Trump’s Great America is how disabled people like me fit in. Apparently Trump thinks our incessant neediness is one of the things keeping America from being great again because he’s made a solemn vow to swiftly and complete repeal the Affordable Care Act, a law which greatly benefits many disabled Americans.
First, the ACA prohibits discrimination against people with so-called pre-existing medical conditions. Before it came along, insurance companies refused to cover many people with disabilities. Trump has expressed an interest in perhaps keeping this provision in place. We’ll see. But even if he does, without other ACA elements in place to control costs, insurers could resume excluding disabled people by making premiums prohibitively expensive for those with pre-existing conditions.
Second, the ACA prevents insurers from limiting how much they will spend on an individual in that person’s lifetime. For disabled people with complex, ongoing and expensive medical needs, this is extremely important.
The ACA also contains a promising new Medicaid innovation called the Community First Choice Option, which is designed to help disabled people live in their homes and communities rather than in nursing homes and institutions. States that take advantage of CFCO receive millions of extra Medicaid dollars to create programs where people with disabilities can hire people of their choosing to assist them in their homes and communities. Texas is one of the states that has opted to receive CFCO funds. In that state, disabled people who need to access current state programs that would support them in their homes and communities can languish on waiting lists for years and years. But the ACA prohibits waiting lists for CFCO-funded programs. All eligible people must be served immediately. That alone is a significant improvement.
The CFCO could enormously improve the lives of millions of disabled Americans. But Trump would throw it out the window just as it’s getting started.
Trump’s Great America seems like a place where disabled people are also outside the gates.
Mike Ervin is a writer and disability rights activist living in Chicago. He blogs at Smart Ass Cripple, "expressing pain through sarcasm since 2010."