(The Center Square) – Workers with disabilities in Pennsylvania can now earn up to $ 61,000 a year before losing access to some of their medical assistance benefits.
Bill 69 came into effect on July 1 and nearly doubles the income cap of $ 32,000 for the program in an effort to tackle widespread unemployment and underemployment for beneficiaries often forced to choose between maintaining coverage and accept a better paying job.
Representative Katie Klunk, R-Hanover sponsored a version of the legislation in the House and said it was inspired by a man she knew who was living with a “debilitating” illness requiring continued care.
“When he returned to work, he found that he would earn too much money to qualify for the necessary medical services covered by MAWD. [Medical Assistance for Workers with Disabilities], “she said.” Instead of returning to the position he loved, he chose to take a lower paying position in order to continue to contribute while receiving much needed services. “
Klunk and his co-sponsor, Representative Dan Frankel, D-Pittsburgh, said 35% of disabled program beneficiaries work and only 21% report full-time employment. Others refuse marriage because their partner’s property would result in disqualification.
“For people who need help dressing in the morning, getting into their wheelchairs and meeting other basic needs of daily living, Medicaid is the only way to meet those needs,” said Klunk. “This means that skilled, hardworking and capable employees must put ambition aside. “
The “Catch-22” that many recipients find themselves in is “the opposite of what our public policy should be doing,” she added.
“This means that families are denied the necessary income, that individuals are denied a fulfilling professional life and that our communities are denied the talents of very capable and willing workers,” she said.
Under the new law, workers who earn more than $ 61,000 will not lose their coverage either. Instead, they will contribute more of their income to cover their services. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that these changes will expand coverage to 1,000 residents.