|We've got NEWS|
|Wednesday, December 29, 1999 |
Tommy G. Thompson
News Media Contact
MADISON Department of Workforce Development (DWD) Secretary Linda Stewart today announced that DWD would aggressively go after federal dollars becoming available to help people with disabilities go to work without losing their health coverage, as a result of a bill signed by the President on December 17.
"Weve been trying for a long time in Wisconsin to bring down barriers that prevent people with disabilities from working," Stewart said. "Removing the threat of losing necessary health benefits will go a long way towards helping Wisconsin citizens with disabilities."
The Department, in partnership with the Department of Health and Family Services (DHFS), has been searching for ways to let persons with disabilities work without losing government-funded health coverage. Individuals who are disabled and receiving benefits such as Medicare or Medicaid are only allowed to earn a small amount of income to stay in the program. Earning too much money can result in loss of those important benefits. Most of these individuals cannot afford to lose their medical coverage no matter how badly they would like to work. Therefore, most people with disabilities who receive benefits do not work.
In July of this year, Governor Tommy G. Thompson launched Pathways to Independence, an initiative to help people with severe disabilities overcome employment barriers. The project was started in 17 sites around the state and is currently funded at approximately $1.5 million and is jointly being administered by DWD and DHFS. The project is requesting federal waivers that will allow people receiving federal aid in the form of Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance to keep more of that aid while earning more money. The waivers will also allow individuals with disabilities to continue receiving federal health coverage. The new law is expected to speed up the waiver process.
The new federal law will provide $150 million in grants to encourage states to set up programs that will permit persons with disabilities to work without losing benefits. An additional $250 million will be available for a Medicaid buy-in demonstration. This will allow states to establish an income-based premium that will be paid by the employee to maintain federal health coverage. Just as one would with private insurance, persons with disabilities will be able to work and keep their health coverage by paying a portion of the cost.
The new law will also improve vocational services for people with disabilities. Individuals with disabilities who want to enter the workforce can receive a "ticket" from the Social Security Administration to purchase vocational services. The new law will greatly expand the pool of providers that are available and make receiving services much easier.
"Wisconsin will be very aggressive in going after as much of this federal money as possible so that individuals with disabilities across Wisconsin can go to work without losing the health coverage they need." Stewart said.