HHS Grants Will Enhance Medicaid Coverage for Disabled Workers
HHS announced on Oct. 25 the commencement of two new grant programs that will allow "people with disabilities to become and stay competitively employed." The first initiative, the Demonstration to Maintain Independence and Employment, stems from the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999, which encouraged "people with disabilities to work without fear of losing their Medicare, Medicaid or similar health benefits." The demonstration will allow states to provide health care to workers with deteriorating chronic health problems. As a result, recipient workers should be able to "remain competitively employed by preventing or delaying the deterioration or a relapse of their condition." Rhode Island and Mississippi will be the first to receive these TWWIIA grants: Rhode Island will receive roughly $2 million over six years to enhance Medicaid services to workers diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, while Mississippi will receive $27.5 million to provide coverage mirroring the state's "full Medicaid benefits and services" for 500 workers with HIV/AIDS. HCFA Acting Administrator Michael Hash said, "Our goal with these grants is to see if getting health care to people earlier than traditional Medicaid rules allow will actually lower long term costs and increase a person's work life and the quality of that life." The demonstration is authorized to spend $250 million over six years, and all states are eligible to apply for the grants. The second HHS initiative, the Medicaid Infrastructure Grants, will allocate $17 million in the first year to 24 states and the District of Columbia "to allow individuals with a disability to purchase health coverage through Medicaid." Disabled individuals often cite "fear of losing health coverage" as a major barrier to returning to work, according to HHS. HHS Secretary Donna Shalala said, "By helping employed individuals better manage their own chronic health conditions while they are working, we hope to prolong a healthy, productive work life. We think it makes great sense to assist these workers to stay healthy and employed as long as possible for the benefit of the person and society." Congress approved the grant for 11 years with $150 million earmarked for the first five years of the program. The following states will receive grants in the first round of awards: Alabama, Alaska, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin (HHS release, 10/25).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.