What many have forgotten, or maybe never realized, is that accepting federal funds in order to expand Medicaid will not just benefit “able-bodied” individuals. People with disabilities also will benefit from expansion.

According to the Social Security Administration, individuals who are approved for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits are automatically eligible to receive Medicare, but must wait approximately 24 months for coverage to start. Because SSDI amounts are based on an individual’s prior work earnings, monthly benefit amounts can exceed current income guidelines for MaineCare, rendering them ineligible for the program.

There is a certain irony in a program (SSDI) that determines an individual is unable, because of their disability, to engage in substantial employment and yet subjects them to a two-year waiting period before they can receive health care.

Also, people with disabilities do work, but many must work in low-paying jobs or cannot maintain a 40-hour work week because of their disability or health-related issues. If they’re lucky to find a job in today’s economy, they face the real possibility that the job will not come with health benefits. It is also the inability to access health insurance that prevents individuals from receiving care that could potentially allow them greater employment opportunities.

Make no mistake; people with disabilities want to work. It’s a shame that we wouldn’t take steps to ensure that these same people are able to receive the health care that they so desperately need and allow them to continue in this endeavor.

Although I am the public policy director for the Disability Rights Center, I am not writing in this capacity. Rather, I offer my opinion as an individual with a disability who knows the difference health insurance can make in a person’s life, and who believes all individuals should be afforded this opportunity.

Sara SquiresAugusta

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