Medicaid Reform and Applying for Disability Benefits

By Disability Group

Currently, Medicaid serves low-income parents, children, seniors, and people with disabilities. This means, while applying for disability benefits, a low-income adult is not eligible for medical coverage.  However, pursuant to the Health Care Reform Bill, as of 2014 Medicaid will expand to include low-income, childless adults living within 133 percent of the federal poverty level. For 2009, income of less than 14,403.90 per year will place a single individual within this range.

Many people who apply for disability benefits are low-income, younger individuals without children; Medicaid reform will mean many will be able to receive the medical help they need much sooner than if they had to wait for a favorable decision on their disability claims.  This is good news, not just for those filing disability claims, but for taxpayers as well.  Treating younger individuals with a disability early on means a greater possibility for early recovery and rehabilitation.  Having to wait years for proper medical coverage will often ensure that a social security beneficiary will never be able to return to the work force.  This burdens the SSA in that it makes disability a program of continued support, not of rehabilitation.  

Allowing childless and low-income individuals access to Medicaid before being awarded disability benefits will help disability claimants recover more quickly, and build stronger cases through having proper medical treatment while they wait for decisions on their disability claims.  Some individuals might have the opportunity to fully recover during the process, which would put them back to work sooner than if they had limited healthcare coverage.  Overall, it’s possible that expanding Medicaid to low-income, childless individuals will cost less than the alternative – making once disabled persons incapable of rehabilitation and therefore dependent on the system.