One of the top priorities for the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (MN-CCD) during the 2014 legislative session was an effort to increase Medical Assistance (MA) Income Standards. Although we did win greater legislative exposure to this issue it did not make it into the final Omnibus Supplemental Appropriations bill. MN-CCD also has a Breaking Through Poverty Campaign that will continue to bring forward these types of issues.
The issue of poverty for persons with disabilities and the elderly certainly deserves to have continued focus and attention. Persons with disabilities who make even $1 over the federal poverty limit (currently $958 per month or $11,496 per year) need to spend-down to 75% of poverty which is currently (for a single person) only $719 per month or $8,628 per year. Things are even worse for a couple with disabilities or elderly who are married. They must spend-down to $971 per month or $11,652 per year. On Medical Assistance for Employed People with Disabilities the income, spousal and asset standards are quite different.
These individuals can also have no more than $3,000 in assets (excluding a house and car) and some changes in retirement have been addressed recently. This asset limitation has not changed since the 1980s.
Requiring people to live on 75% of the poverty limit or less and restricting assets to $3,000 can amount to a lifelong sentence of poverty for those affected. What are the policy reasons why Minnesota would require this sacrifice? Also, why are some of the lowest income people in the state being forced to surrender part of their social security income?
We need to have a discussion about health care affordability. In order to live in the community a persons with disabilities or the elderly may require more extensive support services in addition to traditional medical benefits. While these services can be costly they are far cheaper than what was paid to institutionalize many people just a few years ago. The state has apparently decided that because people require these extra support services they must pay what amounts to a penalty by surrendering much of their income back to the state. This is not a value we believe is just or defensible.
The issue of equity is also boosted by the opportunity for people who qualify for MA through the Medicaid expansion available under the Affordable Care Act. An individual without disabilities can earn up to 138% of poverty, currently $1,273 or $15,281 per year and be eligible for MA without any spend-down or asset limitations.
This is good public policy and we want persons with disabilities and the elderly to have this same policy treatment.
What a difference it would make for an individual to have an increase in monthly income from $719 to $958 or even $1273! It would allow people to have a few “extras” or save for a needed purchase. It would boost economic growth as that income is spent in the community. It would restore dignity to people who feel discriminated against because they need MA provided support services and have a disability.
MN-CCD is excited about this prospect! Please join us in this campaign. For further info contact Gene Martinez at [email protected] or 952-915-3615.
Gene Martinez chairs the MN-CCD Board. MN-CCD is a broad-based coalition of organizations representing persons with disabilities, providers and advocates