Employment in the Disability Community

This blog entry was adapted from information provided by the Statewide Independent Living Council of Kansas (SILCK)

Through the dedicated work of the Centers for Independent Living (CILs), a significant change has taken place in terms of the cost of persons with disabilities who are employed and those who remain unemployed.

KU conducted a five year study of consumers who were working and were able to maintain their medical
card. They found not only were the persons continuing to work but the monthly cost of their medical services substantially decreased.

People with disabilities CAN and WANT to Work!

Through the Medicaid Buy-In or Working Healthy Program, there are over 1,100 people with disabilities currently enrolled. The Working Healthy Program…

  • Allows people with disabilities to return to or increase their work effort without losing critical Medicaid Coverage.
  • Encourages people to work, increase their income and accumulate assets in order to reduce long term reliance on public supports.
  • Requires some people to pay a monthly premium for Medicaid coverage.
  • Has premium amounts that are based on the household’s countable income and are payable monthly.

Researchers at the University of Kansas say one of the surest ways to reduce Medicaid spending on people with disabilities is also one of the most underutilized. It’s called work.

“The problem is most people aren’t aware of Working Healthy,” said Nicolle Kurth, a researcher at KU’s Center for Research on Learning.

Working Healthy is a program that since July 2002 has allowed people with disabilities to hold on to their Medicaid coverage while they work. “They have to pay a premium,” Kurth said, “but the premium is based on a sliding scale and can’t be more than 7.5 percent of their income.”

In Kansas, around 1,100 disabled people take part in Working Healthy. Almost 40 percent of them are mentally ill; more than 20 percent are physically disabled.

Earlier this year, a KU Center for Research on Learning study found that between 2004 and 2007, Medicaid spending on outpatient services per beneficiary per month went from $816 to $718. For the same period, Medicaid outpatient spending on Working Healthy participants went from $434 to $232.
Outpatient services include visits to the doctor, mental health counseling and most other regular services, excluding pharmacy benefits, that do not require hospitalization.

“Being on Working Healthy reduced Medicaid spending by almost 50 percent,” said Shannon Jones, executive director for the Statewide Independent Living Council of Kansas. “The fact of the matter is that people with disabilities would much rather be out working than staying home, watching their health deteriorate,” Jones said. “The reason they don’t (work) is they are scared to death of losing their health insurance, which happens to be Medicaid. Working Healthy lets them stay on Medicaid,” she said.

Adapted from a NEWS report by Dave Ranney, KHI, October 25, 2010.

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