Final Health Care Votes Bring Boost For People With Disabilities
Congress approved a series of final changes Thursday to the health care overhaul plan, taking steps to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates and clarify a series of other provisions, while largely drawing the health care reform debate to a close.
Most elements of health care reform became law Tuesday when President Barack Obama signed overhaul legislation. But a few last minutes changes and clarifications spelled out in a so-called reconciliation bill remained. Votes Thursday in the Senate and House of Representatives put the final issues to rest.
Specifically the measures approved late this week will grant doctors higher reimbursement rates for care of Medicaid patients in 2013 and 2014, while increasing federal funding to states to meet this cost. The reconciliation bill also includes a funding boost for community health centers and federal money to help states meet the cost of a Medicaid expansion spelled out in the initial health care reform legislation.
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Medicaid is a state-managed federal health care program that serves people with disabilities and those with low incomes. In recent times, those on Medicaid have reported significant difficulty finding doctors and other service providers willing to accept the government health care program because of low reimbursement rates.
“This vote represents a triumph for the health and economic stability of America’s families,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement following the vote Thursday. “The Congress of the United States finished the job of health insurance reform today; in doing so, we made history and progress for the American people.”
Disability advocates across the board hailed the health insurance reform legislation as a major step forward for Americans with disabilities. The new law will prevent coverage denials due to pre-existing conditions and eliminate annual and lifetime limits while expanding Medicaid and giving incentives for community-based living options. What’s more, once the law is phased in over the next four years, insurance plans will cover mental health services, rehabilitation and habilitation services as well as behavior therapy.