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Announcing New Action to Expand Medicaid Coverage for People with Disabilities

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October 27, 2000

Today, at the White House, President Clinton announced a major new action to expand Medicaid eligibility for people with disabilities and promote the use of home and community-based services. The action proposed by the President invests $960 million over 5 years to allow states to expand Medicaid coverage for tens of thousands of people with disabilities, preventing them from having to become impoverished and allowing them to move from institutions into community-based care settings. The President called on Congress to shift its focus away from excessive and unaccountable HMO payment increases and towards investments in coverage expansions for people with disabilities, and new grants to help states expand alternatives to institutionalization.

THE NEED TO IMPROVE ACCESS TO HEALTH INSURANCE FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES. Thousands of people with disabilities and seniors qualify for Medicaid only if they have very high medical expenses that force their incomes below the poverty level. Since Medicaid is the only available source of health care for many people, they are forced to keep their incomes low in order to qualify. In addition, many families of disabled children are forced into poverty in order to retain Medicaid eligibility for their children. There are also insufficient home- and community-based services and supports for people with disabilities.

EXPANDING MEDICAID ELIGIBILITY FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES. Today's action would expand Medicaid eligibility for people with disabilities by allowing states to disregard portions of an individual's income when determining their eligibility, such as the amount spent on food or shelter. This action will allow states to provide Medicaid coverage to people who would not otherwise be eligible, resulting in:

  • People moving from institutions into the community because they can retain additional income to pay for food, clothing, and shelter; and
  • People continuing or returning to work by ensuring that they will not lose their health insurance coverage if their income increases slightly.

URGING CONGRESS TO ACT NOW ON HEALTH CARE PRIORITIES FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES. The President called on Congress to act now on critical health care priorities for the disability community by:

  • Increasing access to Medicaid for working families with disabled children by passing the bipartisan Grassley-Kennedy-Sessions-Waxman Family Opportunity Act of 2000;
  • Enhancing state capacity to provide home- and community-based alternatives to institutionalization;
  • Finishing the job on the Work Incentives Improvement Act by providing permanent Medicare coverage to people with disabilities returning to work; and
  • Enacting high-priority health care initiatives such as a voluntary Medicare prescription drug benefit; a strong and enforceable Patients' Bill of Rights; a $3,000 long-term care tax credit for people of all ages; and a new $1,000 tax credit to offset employment-related costs incurred by working people with disabilities.

A RECORD OF WORKING ON BEHALF OF AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES. President Clinton and Vice President Gore have worked hard to achieve equal opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for people with disabilities, including:

  • Vigorously defending the Americans with Disabilities Act in court cases across the nation;
  • Working to implement the Supreme Court's Olmstead decision, which prohibits unjustified isolation of institutionalized persons with disabilities;
  • Helping ensure that 80% of America's public transit buses are now accessible;
  • Signing into law and implementing the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act; and
  • Developing a comprehensive, coordinated employment agenda through the Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities.

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Announcing New Action to Expand Medicaid Coverage