Column: Disabled deserve protection in health care law
Since its founding 75 years ago, JVS (founded as Jewish Vocational Service) has been a voice for the equal rights and treatment of people with disabilities. As Congress begins to consider health care reform, we urge our lawmakers to keep protections that are currently provided for people with disabilities.
The Affordable Care Act includes important provisions that advance the health and economic security of people with disabilities — people who are part of our families, our neighborhoods, our communities.
Previously, too many people with disabilities were denied coverage based upon pre-existing conditions. Or, for those who could get insurance, arbitrary limits determined how much health care one could get in a year or in a lifetime.
This discriminatory system placed a heavy financial burden on people with disabilities, who often require care from more expensive medical specialists. This forced people to make medical decisions based on their ability to pay and, in some cases, make life and death choices about which medical treatments they could — or could not — afford. Further, these decisions have unnecessarily exacerbated the medical and mental health barriers brought on by insufficient treatment.
Currently, people with disabilities are eligible for health insurance coverage regardless of a pre-existing condition. Annual and lifetime caps on health coverage have also been eliminated. And, health insurers have started to provide people with more services they need, including rehabilitative and habilitative services, medical devices and mental health and substance abuse disorder services.
Further, the current Medicaid provision helped substantially more people with disabilities obtain Medicaid coverage as it raised the income level at which individuals could qualify (about $30,000 per year for a family of four). As a result, more than 640,000 uninsured Michigan citizens — including thousands of people with disabilities — now have access to primary and preventive care and do not have to turn to emergency rooms for non-urgent medical attention.
We must advocate for continued cost-effective preventive care for all citizens. This is especially important for people with disabilities, as affordable care offers more than just access to health insurance and medical services. It protects individuals’ overall health and contributes to the overall well-being of our community. JVS urges Congress to keep provisions that will continue these crucial protections.
Leah Rosenbaum is the president and CEO of JVS.