Last year the Minnesota Legislature created an incentive program for people with disabilities to return to work. The program is called Medical Assistance for Employed Person with Disabilities or MA-EPD. The response to the program thus far has been overwhelming.
MA-EPD is an excellent opportunity for independence, and has been positively received by the disability community. The Department of Human Services was expecting 400 people to enroll in the first year of the program. Instead, over 3,800 people have gone to work in just the first nine months that the program has been implemented, and the numbers continue to rise. MA-EPD encourages people with disabilities to work, earn an income, and reduce reliance on government programs by allowing people to work and still receive Medical Assistance for their health care expenses. The program works by increasing the asset and income levels that a working person may keep and still be able to qualify for Medical Assistance.
Before the creation of MA-EPD, a person who qualified for Medical Assistance could only keep $467 per month of their earnings. In order to receive Medical Assistance, a person had to make a choice of either working and trying to pay for their own health care expenses; or keeping their income low enough to qualify for Medical Assistance. This created a disincentive to work. The MA-EPD program design however, enables people to keep working, and provides for a single adult to make up to $1,392 per month and still qualify for Medical Assistance. If the person earns over the $1,392 under MA-EPD, a 10% premum is assessed For example, if a person has Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) of $500.00 and earns gross income from employment of $1500.00 the total of earned and unearned income would be $2000 per month. The premium would be $62.00 payable to MA-EPD. This provides an incentive to work, rather than a disincentive. Another benefit provided from this program is the ability to save up to $20,000 for the purchase of a home or vehicle. There are other benefits as well.
The MA-EPD program offers a “win-win-win” situation for government, people with disabilities, and employers. The government now has another contributing member to the taxpayer system. A person with a disability is now able to work and save money for their big-ticket items such as a house or a car, and the employers win because people with disabilities are yet another labor resource in this era of work force shortages. With the unemployment level at less than 3 percent, it is the opportune time for people with disabilities to move back into the work force.
It is important that people with disabilities learn about the MA-EPD program and the benefits it has to offer. If you are someone currently on Medical Assistance, and think you may qualify for this program, contact your local county social services office or the Work Incentives Connection at 651-632-5113 or toll free at 1-800-976-6728 for more information on the program and how to enroll.
Jill Schrank in a intern at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Minnesota Chapter