MA-EPD struggles continue, no resolution yet

Typically, Minnesotans work well beyond 65 years of age. Efforts to allow the state’s disability community to do the same […]

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Typically, Minnesotans work well beyond 65 years of age. Efforts to allow the state’s disability community to do the same continue at the state capitol. The story of Charles “Chuck” Van Heuveln and the looming threat to his lifestyle has sparked the latest push for a bill to expand the age limit for Medical Assistance for Employed People with Disabilities (MA-EPD). Proposed changes would allow many Minnesotans with disabilities to continue working beyond the age limit of 65 without threatening their assets or service.

The MA-EPD program allows people to work, maintain higher assets and a few other benefits such as spousal income, vehicles, savings and burial funds while paying a premium to obtain straight Medical Assistance (MA) insurance coverage.

One of the main advantages of MA-EPD is to obtain personal care attendants (PCA) services coverage. Most insurance packages that would be provided by employers would not cover PCA services. This incentive has given people with disabilities the same rights as other citizens to work, pay taxes, own homes, and save for retirement that most employed people are offered. Van Heuveln said “having all this taken away at the age of 65 is contradictory to the initial incentive of the MA-EPD program.”

Gov. Mark Dayton’s budget, and the House and Senate Health and Human Services (HHS) omnibus bills all have language extending the age to qualify for MA-EPD pass the age 65, although the Senate bill does not have real clear language about the other concerns as far as “disregards” such as spousal income, savings, burial funds or vehicles and how those affect an asset limit. If either the House or governor’s budget became state law, people on MA-EPD who have been on the program 20 months previous to reaching age 65 would be able to continue working and keep their assets.

There would be a cost to the state for the changes in MA-EPD, although the Senate cost remains unclear. The House proposal will cost the state around $440,000 in fiscal year 2013 and almost $700,000 in fiscal year 2014 and 2015. These costs are a very small percentage of the overall yearly budget of Minnesota.

If passed this would be contingent on federal waiver to extend the age limit for MA-EPD beyond the age of 65 years. There have been several conversations with the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) and many of the legislators and lobbyists on pushing this waiver for the quickest response from the federal government.

This potentially could help Van Heuveln, from losing his independence, home and retirement because he’s turning 65 very soon. That doesn’t mean he and others wouldn’t run into complications from the state or federal government. One issue is that of not being allowed to transfer money out of one’s possession for 24 months prior to enrolling in MA. If that’s the case, Van Heuveln would have to retire to get his pension 24 months prior to starting MA. Ironically he would then have to find another job, at 65 years of age to maintain his MA-EPD status which hinges on his independence— a real Catch-22 situation.

Another alternative has come to light is the possibility that DHS could request to extend MA-EPD beyond age 65 as part of the MA Reform Demonstration Waiver, if the Minnesota Legislature doesn’t act. The Disability Law Center has indicated they would request MA-EPD extension to the MA Reform Waiver if state officials don’t act. This approach wouldn’t help those who are retiring in 2012, but it would mean not having to wait for another legislative session for action on the extension. The MA Reform Waiver was slated for public comment until the end of March. Those comments could also be a factor in any decision.

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