May 20, 1999
Committee By a WALL STREET JOURNAL Staff Reporter
WASHINGTON -- The House Commerce Committee unanimously approved a bill that would allow people with disabilities to keep their government-funded health coverage even if they get a job.
The Work Incentives Improvement Act, backed by both parties, President Clinton and disability advocates, would extend Medicare coverage for working disabled people -- including those with HIV, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and other disabilities -- to 10 years from four years. It would permit states to allow people with disabilities to buy Medicaid coverage.
The measure, which would cost about $800 million over five years, also provides for rehabilitation, job training and placement services. "This empowers people," said Rep. Rick Lazio (R., N.Y.), who proposed the bill.
"This is sweeping away barriers." The barrier: Currently, disabled Americans who earn more than $500 a month lose their Medicare or Medicaid coverage.
Many who can work opt not to take a job to preserve their heath coverage, the bill's supporters say. "The committee has taken an important step toward removing significant barriers to work for one of our nation's most significant untapped resources -- millions of people with disabilities,"
Mr. Clinton said Wednesday. The bill must pass the House Ways and Means Committee before going to the full House. Mr. Lazio said that he hopes the measure will reach the House floor by year's end.
Some differences remain, primarily over eligibility standards and costs.
But Mr. Lazio said he's confident those issues can be resolved. Panel members
are pushing to get it to the floor before Memorial Day. It is expected
to pass with overwhelming support.