Gov. Jay Nixon, D-Mo., on Thursday signed into law House Bill 1565, which updates an asset limit measure that is more than 40 years old and allows people with disabilities to retain Medicaid benefits and save for unexpected expenses.
The bill, which Nixon signed at Paraquad, increases the amount of money that people receiving Medicaid coverage can claim as assets. Starting in 2018, the dollar amount increases to $2,000 (from $1,000) for an individual, and to $4,000 (from $2,000) for a couple. Each following year, until 2022, the amounts will increase by $1,000, reaching $5,000 for an individual and $10,000 for a couple. Annual increases after 2022 will be tied to cost of living adjustments.
Missouri began participating in the Medicaid program in the late 1960s.
“This legislation is long overdue and it helps to correct a flaw in the system,” said Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, the bill’s sponsor. “By raising the asset limits, we are removing a significant disincentive for the elderly and people with disabilities to be prepared for expenses they may incur.”
Aimee Wehmeier, President and CEO of Paraquad, explained how low asset limits in Missouri have historically compelled people with significant disabilities to make difficult decisions.
“Essentially, we had to choose between saving money and accessing necessary disability-related supports and services,” Wehmeier said. “In the past, being fiscally responsible and saving money meant losing Medicaid benefits, including health care, personal care services and reimbursements for durable medical equipment.”
Many people with significant disabilities utilize personal care services to help get out bed, prepare for work, cook meals and complete household tasks.
“Without these vital services, we would not be able to work or live independently,” Wehmeier said. “And without the ability to save money, we are not prepared for future health needs or personal emergencies.”
Seeing HB 1565 through to signing was a top priority for Paraquad and its allies and advocates around the state, according to Cathy Brown, Paraquad’s Director of Public Policy and Advocacy.
“People with disabilities are twice as likely to live in poverty as any other minority population,” said Brown. “When a person with a disability needs access to services that are only available publicly, he or she must often times get — and stay — as poor as possible for as long as possible. Our system inadvertently creates dependence instead of maximizing the independence of beneficiaries. Changes like the asset limit increase move us closer toward a system that encourages maximum economic self-sufficiency.”
Brown described the signing of HB 1566 as a big win for the disability community.
“It addresses a key barrier to economic self-sufficiency. People want to build a better future for themselves and reduce reliance on government programs and charity. Ensuring people have the capacity to save more of their own money to meet financial obligations helps them do that,” said Brown. “We thank Governor Nixon, Representative Engler and all of the legislators who saw the many benefits of allowing working Missourians to increase their savings while still being able to access necessary services.”
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About Paraquad: Founded in 1970, Paraquad is the leading disability services provider in the St. Louis region. One of the oldest Centers for Independent Living in the country, Paraquad’s mission is to empower people with disabilities to increase their independence through choice and opportunity. A key focus is to make St. Louis more accessible for all people by advocating, building awareness and delivering comprehensive services.
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