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Tyler Axness, Published January 08 2011

Disabled community sees benefits in health reforms

In light of the resurgent controversy surrounding the Affordable Care Act, Freedom Resource Center would like to draw attention to the benefits included in the bill for the disabled population. Though we believe changes can be made to the bill, we ask our elected officials to consider the implications of their actions in regard to the disabled community.

As you may know, this bill will be phased in over the next few years. Many provisions are already benefiting the disabled. Yet, there are provisions such as the Community First Choice Option, closing the Medicare “doughnut hole,” and the CLASS Act, which will materialize in the years ahead.

The Community First Choice Option will allow individuals a more balanced choice of receiving home- and community-based care versus that of institutional-based care in a nursing home. This gives people the choice to stay in their homes and maintain independence while receiving the services necessary for a quality life. Such a choice should not be restricted nor denied to anyone.

The CLASS Act, as explained by the Kaiser Foundation, is a national, voluntary program, which will allow workers to purchase long-term care insurance. People who become disabled will be able to draw payments, after they’ve paid in for five years, to help in their daily necessities. This will provide incentives for people to stay off Medicaid. No longer will people with disabilities need to spend down their earned income to qualify for Medicaid services just to receive medical care.

Closing the Medicare “doughnut hole” will help alleviate the cost of prescription drugs for an individual who qualifies.

We are aware this bill is controversial and a cause for contentious debate. However, health care is about people’s lives, not political theater. Threats of repeal or defunding vital services will have a profound impact on the people that essentially need the care most. We all know health is imperative to an independent life.

Axness is communication and policy coordinator of Freedom Resource Center Inc., Fargo.