Editor’s note: During the 2016 legislative session, the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (MNCCD) is leading the Medical Assistance (MA) Reform Campaign. Minnesotans affected by the current MA Income Standards and Asset Limits are seeking changes. They are seeking changes to the spend-down policies in place so that they can keep more of their assets. Most people would use any additional income to pay for basic needs like food and shelter. Many of the personal stories will be shared as part of this session’s Faces of Disability exhibit.
Jeremy lives in a clean, well-lit, attractively decorated rambler in Bloomington, within sight of the Mall of America. Jeremy has cerebral palsy from meningitis when he was seven months old. He is very bright and loves to learn, but has extreme difficulty with most physical things including speech and mobility.
His income is approximately $1,240 month from Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) and his spend-down is currently $504 per month, leaving him with $736 per month to live on. Jeremy is lucky; he lives with family paying only $500 per month for room and board. He has a small amount of money to buy clothes, pay for gas, etc. His family worries if he had to live away from home, how would he survive?
If Jeremy could keep more of his income, he would buy a new wheelchair-accessible van. His current 1993 van is not safe to drive out of his neighborhood. If Jeremy had a new van, he would like to go to Duluth, where he hears they have some great wheelchair-accessible trails.
Joseph is a survivor. He loves his garden, his home and living in his community of Brooklyn Park. He has a complicated medical history that includes polyneuropathy and post-concussion syndrome after a car crash and a work-related accident. He needs multiple supports to live in his home.
After Joseph couldn’t work, he was required to spend his entire 401K and all his savings on medical expenses. He receives SSDI of $1,160 per month, but because this is over the poverty line he must spend-down $424 a month and live on just $736 per month.
His mortgage is $864 monthly. He does not have enough income to pay his mortgage, let alone buy food or necessities. He relies on the help of family and neighbors, but he needs a more permanent solution. If Joseph could keep more of his income, he could pay his mortgage and buy essentials, allowing him to stay in his home and the community he loves. Joseph would also like to eat healthier food, which he believes would lower his health care usage.
Layne has lived two completely different lives in one. She was a high-functioning professional with several degrees and a six-figure income, but in 2009 Layne suffered a massive stroke while having a brain tumor removed. This required her to start over. She had to relearn most everything, from reading and writing to organizing her day.
Layne lives independently with supports. Her income is $1,195 a month from SSDI. She has a spend-down that leaves her at 80 percent of the poverty level, currently $792 a month. After paying her rent and utilities, she has $86 every month to live on. This is not enough to meet even her basic needs. What she once spent on a latte, she now spends on bread and peanut butter for a week’s worth of lunches.
If Layne could keep more of her income, she would have some much needed dental work done. She would also buy night crawlers (something she cannot currently afford) and go fishing, which is where she finds her peace.
Kevin is a 33-year-old Army Veteran who served for 10 years with deployments to Kosovo, Iraq and Kuwait. He was a sharpshooter and has a black belt in Tai Kwon Do. In 2013, he suffered a traumatic brain injury during a rugby match that left him legally blind and unable to walk. Once a world traveler, he is now limited to occasional trips to the doctor or the local mall.
Kevin has two sources of monthly income, a service pension of $1,072, and SSDI of $1,105. This total of $2,177 a month must be spent down to $736 in order for Kevin to qualify for MA and his needed medical supports. Kevin lives in a group home, where after his spend-down he is allowed $97 a month for personal needs. His mother covers things like a cell phone and fitness membership.
Keeping more of his income would allow Kevin the chance to move out of the group home and live independently, as well as increase his overall quality of life.
Beverly is an active, attractive, spry 81-year-old. Beverly has age-related Alzheimer’s and scoliosis. After the death of her husband, she worked two jobs to support her children, retiring after 30 years from the Retail Meat Cutters Union at age 75. She worked hard all her life to be independent and financially secure. She is unable to care for herself and now needs 24-hour supervision.
Her income from pension and Social Security is $4,374 a month. She must spend down to the allowable limit with all but $97 a month going to her assisted living facility. It is impossible to pay for all her personal items and care, like clothes, phone, personal care products, Ensure, the dentist and haircuts. Her daughter covers the cost of the majority of her personal expenses. Beverly feels like she is a burden.
If Beverly could keep more of her income, she would not burden her family and be able to pay for things herself.
She would have far less worry and anxiety.