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ACA provides coverage for those on Social Security disability

One of the main points in the debate over the Affordable Care Act was the potential for cost savings in the healthcare system. Among a host of proposals was the observation that many people without insurance end up in emergency rooms -- the most costly place to get treatment. Moreover, with preventive care and routine treatment of chronic diseases, most of these folks would never need emergency intervention. Ensuring that people have access to basic care, therefore, actually turns out to be much less expensive than letting them go without.

The Social Security Administration has long known that, and most beneficiaries of Social Security disability are also eligible for Medicare or Medicaid. That is -- they’re eligible after a two-year waiting period, as an organizer for Citizen Action of Wisconsin recently pointed out in a piece for Express Milwaukee.

That two-year wait has been a huge problem for people whose disabilities were considered by private health insurance companies to be preexisting conditions. For example, many people qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income based on chronic or degenerative diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and cancer. These disabling medical conditions unquestionably require ongoing treatment, yet sufferers were often denied private health insurance just as they lost access to employer-based coverage because they could not work.

Before the ACA went into effect, private insurers could deny coverage to people with these disabling illnesses on the basis that their conditions were pre-existing. One solution was the creation of Wisconsin’ High Insurance Risk Sharing Plan, but even when people could wait the six months required for those with pre-existing conditions, the premiums and deductibles were often too high for people on Social Security disability to afford, considering that the average benefit puts them at about 120 percent of the federal poverty level.

The ACA does not allow coverage to be denied, or made more expensive, because of pre-existing conditions. Furthermore, since Social Security disability beneficiaries’ incomes are often so low, they are likely to qualify for subsidized coverage, with no waiting period after qualification.

If you or a loved one is suffering from a disabling disease or another serious medical condition, this part of the ACA should make an enormous difference in your access to affordable, routine medical care.

Source: Express Milwaukee, “Understanding Obamacare: People With Disabilities Can Get Coverage,” Kevin Kane, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Jan. 18, 2014

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