DISABLED CHILDREN: Kennedy, Grassley Push Health Bill
After passing the Work Incentives Improvement Act last year to help disabled people return to work without losing government-sponsored health insurance, Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) are now moving to help families with disabled children. The two senators are working on the Family Opportunity Act, which would authorize states to raise the income limits for families with disabled children currently receiving benefits through the federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid programs. Most states offer the benefits only to families with incomes under 200% of poverty, but that rule has "locked in" many parents "to keeping their family's income low enough to keep a disabled child on Medicaid." A Kennedy aide explained, "Parents are not able to provide what they need to their other children. To keep them SSI-eligible, they're not taking overtime or raises or any kind of upward mobility." Under the proposed measure, states would also be encouraged to expand Medicaid eligibility to disabled children whose families have incomes that currently are too high to qualify. If states exercise that option, the federal government would increase the administrative match rate for the new recipients from 50 cents to 75 cents on the dollar. Kennedy and Grassley also want to establish a demonstration program that would enable states to set up a "buy in" option for children whose "disabilities are not currently severe enough to qualify, but would become sufficiently severe without needed medical care" (Rovner, CongressDaily/A.M., 2/25).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.