WORKING DISABLED: Pres. Urges Passage; Sen. to Vote Today
President Clinton paid a personal call to the Senate yesterday, urging approval for the Work Incentives Improvements Act, and as a result of this final push, the Senate is expected to overwhelmingly approve the legislation today. "This is a profoundly important piece of legislation," Clinton said, adding, "This is a crazy system that we have allowed to develop" (Rovner, CongressDaily/A.M., 6/16). The bill, which was co-authored by Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and James Jeffords (R-VT), would extend Medicaid and Medicare benefits for ten years to the nation's 7.5 million disabled after they return to work, and is expected to cost $838 million over five years -- a cost that legislators hope will be offset by a $68 million boost in increased tax revenue and Social Security Insurance savings (Palmer, Boston Globe, 6/16). "This is landmark legislation," Kennedy said, adding, "This is really a declaration of independence for millions of Americans who are disabled." The bill's passage was initially slowed by Sen. Phil Gramm's (R-TX) objection to its provision of a tax increase, but Jeffords and Kennedy signed an agreement to "seek spending reductions in other programs to cover the cost," clearing the way for Senate floor action. Jeffords pointed out yesterday that the bill is good for the economy, since disabled people who return to work "would pay income taxes that they do not now pay" (Kiely, USA Today, 6/16). The bill raises the income cap for disabled workers to receive federal benefits from $500 per month to $75,000 per year. Additionally, it would gradually phase "out cash benefits to disabled Americans as they go back to work ... fund job-training and worker-assistance programs, as well as provide the security that if the job did not work out, the workers with disabilities would still have access to their benefits and cash assistance" (Boston Globe, 6/16). Gramm said yesterday that the "Senate is going to pass a good bill. We're also going to fund it the right way, by making disabled workers a high priority in our budget instead of quietly socking it to the taxpayers" (CongressDaily/A.M., 6/16).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.