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Police Arrest People in Wheelchairs at Senate Health Bill Protest

Some were physically removed from their chairs.

Susan  Rinkunas

Susan Rinkunas

Mark Wilson / Getty Images

This morning, as lawmakers and the public were waiting for the draft of the Senate health bill to be released, a group of people with disabilities staged a protest outside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office. The "die-in" protest was organized by disability activist group ADAPT, which, according to its site, organizes "nonviolent direct action, including civil disobedience." Yet Capitol Police removed protesters and made 43 arrests, charging people with crowding, obstructing, or incommoding.

The Senate bill was expected to drastically remake Medicaid and changes to Medicaid would affect people with disabilities a great deal: the federal program insures 30 percent of adults and 60 percent of kids with disabilities. (Medicaid also covers 40 percent of low income adults, 64 percent of nursing home residents, and 20 percent of all Americans, so it's a big deal for a lot of people, not just the disabled community.)

The draft bill was worse than expected. It changes Medicaid from an open-ended program to one with a capped rate per number of enrollees, all while chipping away at those funding pools by tying them to a smaller inflation rate. Former Medicaid director Andy Slavitt also pointed out that eligibility for the individual insurance market starts at 0 percent of the federal poverty line in the bill, which means states could technically eliminate Medicaid and funnel people into the exchanges with no help. Finally, it would end the Medicaid expansion between 2020 and 2024—though eight states would see the expansion end in 2020 because of how their laws are written—meaning at least 10 million people who gained insurance under Obamacare would lose it.

Things got ugly. The Capitol Police said in a statement that "many of the demonstrators, as part of their protest activities, removed themselves from their wheelchairs and lay themselves on the floor, obstructing passage through the hallway and into nearby offices. U.S. Capitol Police officers warned the demonstrators to cease their unlawful activities or be faced with arrest."

This woman chants "No cut to Medicaid" as she's removed from her wheelchair and carried away.

This woman was treated with more dignity.

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