At the 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics Pennsylvania Summer Games, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., came to Penn State to meet athletes and volunteers and talk about the importance of preserving funding for the Special Olympics and health care.
“There was a little bit of a debate a couple months ago on funding for the Special Olympics,” he said Friday afternoon. “Fortunately, it seems like it’s on the right path to maintain the funding, but every once in a while, we need a reminder of how critical Special Olympics is for our commonwealth and for our country.”
The Trump administration’s education budget proposal called for the elimination of $17.6 million in funding for the Special Olympics, which makes up about 10% of the group’s overall revenue, reported the Associated Press. President Donald Trump has since walked back his request to cut funding.
The fact that 2,000 Pennsylvania athletes participate in Special Olympics PA “bodes well for the future, that we have that foundation where these athletes not only learn about competition and sports and achievement, but they also get exposed to a measure of quality health care and have a sense of purpose and achievement that I think is central to the mission of Special Olympics,” Casey said.
Health care is “still a major issue” in American politics because there are still “efforts underway to undermine the gains that we’ve been able to achieve over the last number of years,” he said.
A lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act made it to federal court in December, where a federal judge in Texas ruled the act unconstitutional based on the individual mandate. The decision — backed by the Trump administration and Department of Justice — is facing appeals by Democratic attorneys general in several states and the U.S. House of Representatives, who are trying to persuade the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans not to uphold the U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor’s ruling last year.
If that challenge to the ACA were successful, Casey said, more than 20 million people would be at risk of losing coverage and possibly 160 million would lose protections like those against pre-existing conditions, even though they might technically have coverage.
“I hope (there are) more politicians in Washington who say the following: no more sabotage of our health care exchanges, argue against the lawsuit ... thirdly, no more budget cuts to Medicaid, which of course has a substantial and profound impact on the health care that people with disabilities receive,” he said.
At the Special Olympics PA Summer Games, there are many different stations for athletes to receive free wellness checks and medical attention.
Lions Club International has been sponsoring the Healthy Athletes Opening Eyes clinic at the Summer Games for almost 20 years, said Nittany Eye Associates optometrist Mike Cymbor, a State College Lions Club member, who directs the clinic.
Members and volunteers from all around Pennsylvania came to help out, including members of the Howard Area Lions Club.
“Every year we do the summer state games, and it is so fun and so exciting and so amazing, all the amazing work (that goes into it),” Cymbor said.
At the clinic, optometrists and volunteers see hundreds of athletes each day, helping with registration, color vision testing, visual acuity tests and distribution of glasses and protective sports goggles.
“On a lot of days in Washington, we’re trying to stop bad things from happening to health care,” Casey said. “What we should do is be inspired by what we’re seeing here and move forward on health care, not backward, and try to emulate some of the work that gets done at this event this year and every year.”