Minnesotans who rely on Medical Assistance for Employed People with Disabilities (MA-EPD)and want to keep working and protect their assets got some help in the newly adopted health and human services legislation. Agreement between Gov. Mark Dayton, the House and Senate resulted in needed changes.
The new legislation allows enrollees who have worked up until age 65 to continue to work under MA-EPD rules after age 65 with an April 1, 2012 retroactive date. Those who saved while on MA-EPD before age 65 can retire and keep their retirement savings up to allowed MA-EPD limits and still qualify for Medical Assistance (MA) as senior citizens. In other words, retirement savings accumulated while on MA-EPD will not be counted as an asset when the person retires and applies for MA as a senior.
Both Health and Human Services Committee chairs, Sen. David W. Hann (R-Eden Prairie) and Rep. Jim Abeler (R-Anoka) celebrated and told fellow lawmakers to be proud that this would become law. The effort was helped by funding health maintenance organizations recently paid back to the state.
“It was terrific to have a bipartisan effort on this important issue this session,” said Anne Henry of the Disability Law Center and “until the HMO payback money became available, I was not at all sure this would be included at the end of session. Now it is the law.”
Many legislators and disability lobbyists worked on revamping this program but activists cited Sen. Kathy Sheran (DFL-Mankato), Rep. Mike Paymar (DFL-St. Paul), Rep. Terry Morrow (DFL-St. Peter), Rep. Abeler and Sen. Hann for their efforts.
But not every issue could be sorted out for those who rely on MA-EPD. One key issue that was not corrected with the legislation is the monthly earned income limit of about $700 per month or 75% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). Those who choose to retire at 65 or later will still have to spend down their monthly Social Security or pension to the FPL after they leave the program. Changing the income limit will be a lot more difficult than the changes adopted this session because nearly everyone on MA-EPD has some Social Security income as do all those who become eligible for MA after turning age 65.
During the legislative session, advocates made it clear that both the federal and state government have to set up new programs to replace peoples’ lost income because $700 per month is not enough to live on when someone may own a home and have had much higher asset limitations over his or her working life. The low MA income limit is still an issue that needs to be changed and the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities is likely to continue to work on this in future sessions.
Department of Human Services officials have indicated the state will contact the financial workers for those who turn age 65 from April 1 on to tell them about the changes. Those who are already over age 65 should contact their financial workers and get back on MA-EPD and pay the April premium to avoid the spend-down.