NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Health-Benefit Ceilings For Disabled Workers Being Lifted

October 22, 1999

For years, disabled workers have lived in fear of earning too much to continue qualifying for government health coverage. That is about to change as the House and Senate meet to work out compromises in bipartisan bills that would lift those ceilings.

  • Currently, disabled people who earn more than $700 a month are ineligible for Social Security Disability Insurance.
  • Beginning three years after they breach that ceiling, Medicare is withdrawn.
  • They would still be eligible for Medicaid, but would lose that if their assets exceeded certain limits -- if they earned more than $18,000 a year, for example.
  • The new legislation, entitled the Work Incentives Improvement Act, is estimated to cost in excess of $750 million over five years.

The number of severely disabled people in the U.S. is estimated at about 15 million, of which nearly three-quarters don't work -- frequently because they fear losing their health benefits. Employers, facing the tightest job markets in three decades, are anticipating receiving resumes from the qualified disabled.

Indications are that they will be getting them. Since June, there has been a 50 percent jump in corporate requests for resumes from the National Business and Disability Council in Albertson, N.Y. The council maintains a database of disabled workers and serves over 200 major corporations.

While the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the new law will prompt only about 35,000 disabled adults to join the work force over the next decade, advocates who work with the disabled think that figure is far too low.

Source: Joshua Harris Prager, "Loss of Health Benefits No Longer Threatens Disabled Job-Seekers," Wall Street Journal, October 22, 1999.


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