CLINTON: Proposes Aid For Working Disabled
President Clinton's budget plan for next year will include proposals for "expanding Medicaid and Medicare to allow tens of thousands of people with disabilities to retain their health benefits when they return to work," according to administration officials. The New York Times reports that "[e]ight million disabled people of working age" -- a 60% increase in the last 10 years -- "receive more than $50 billion a year in cash benefits from Social Security and Supplemental Security Income." While many are able to work, fewer than 1% do so because earning any amount of money "jeopardize[s] their disability benefits and the insurance coverage they receive" through the two government programs. "Many of us are unable to go to work because if we do, we will lose our Medicaid and Medicare. That is a risk we cannot take," said Paul Spooner, vice president of the National Council on Independent Living. Clinton's proposal would especially help people -- such as patients with HIV/AIDS or spinal cord injuries -- who rely heavily on Medicaid coverage of prescription drugs and personal assistance. "Without prescription drugs and Medicaid coverage, they might not be able to work or continue to be healthy," said Sandra Thurman, head of the Office of National AIDS Policy. "We're always encouraging people to move from welfare to work. But to keep people in the workplace, paying taxes and living healthy productive lives, we need to provide a minimum amount of support to make sure that happens," Thurman said. The Times reports that Clinton's plan contains "several new options" for the disabled -- defined as unable to engage in any "substantial gainful activity:"
- "People who lose eligibility for Social Security disability benefits because they return to work would be allowed to continue their Medicare coverage."
- "People with disabilities could buy Medicaid coverage even if they took jobs and earned income that disqualified them from the Supplemental Security Income program."
- "States could allow 'working individuals with disabilities' to buy Medicaid coverage even if they lost eligibility for cash benefits because of medical improvements in their conditions"