Health Care Reform

Disability advocates hailed the health care reform legislation signed into law in March as a huge step forward for Americans with disabilities.

Most importantly, they said, once the new law is completely implemented, insurers will no longer be able to deny coverage due to pre-existing conditions. Meanwhile, annual and lifetime limits will be a thing of the past. In addition, the reform package included an expansion of Medicaid and it will require insurance plans to cover mental health, rehabilitation and habilitation services as well as behavior therapy.

“This is far more historic for people with disabilities than it is for the average American,” said Liz Savage, director of health and housing policy at the Disability Policy Collaboration, a joint lobbying initiative of The Arc and United Cerebral Palsy.

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Despite the strides forward, however, there were compromises. A push to include the Community Choice Act — which would require states to offer people with disabilities the option to use Medicaid funding to pay for community-based rather than institutional care — resulted in a voluntary program for states rather than the mandate advocates hoped for.

What’s more, the constitutionality of the health care reform bill is now being tested in the courts.

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