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Medicaid buy-in plan offers disabled workers new freedom to work

May 20, 2008
By Connie Cartmell, ccartmell@mariettatimes.com
For too many years, adult Ohioans with disabilities have routinely turned down additional hours at work—or even better paying jobs—just so they could keep their health benefits through the Ohio Medicaid Insurance Program, experts say.

No more.

Ohio’s Medicaid Buy-In for Workers with Disabilities, which started April 1, offers workers the opportunity to earn more money and still keep Medicaid benefits by paying a small premium, according to David Long of Marietta.

“Most people with disabilities would not accept more hours because they would risk losing benefits,” Long said. “It hurt self-esteem. They couldn’t become more independent and more self-sufficient.”

To date, a total of 163 Ohioans have been enrolled in the new program with about 25 percent paying a premium based on income. Another 101 cases are pending a decision on eligibility because they are over the age limit, not employed or in a few instances, have too many resources, according to information from the Ohio Cerebral Palsy Association.

For WASCO Inc. in Washington County, the new health insurance program offers many clients new freedom to work.

“They won’t have to make decisions based on losing their Medicaid benefits,” said Jan Powell, adult services director with WASCO and the Washington County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities. “This is the first time this has been available. It’s huge.”

Powell said people with disabilities take a lot of pride in their work.

“There are people who want to work 40 hours, not part time,” she said. “This will allow our clients who work limited hours to work more.”

It may mean WASCO employees at The Harbor and Courthouse Cafe, among others, can work additional hours without losing benefits, she said—if they want to.

“People are very excited about this,” said Connie Strahler, coordinator of Pathways to Employment, a WASCO and MRDD program that helps place people with disabilities in jobs. “In Washington County, we estimate it can impact hundreds of people. I think it will ultimately affect any person with disabilities who works at a job.”

Long, grant coordinator with HAVAR Inc. which provides community-based services to citizens with developmental disabilities, at-risk youth and frail elderly, has been working toward the bill for six years as Washington County’s representative on the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council.

“It’s like a state-run insurance program,” Long said. “You would pay premiums on a sliding scale, depending on income.”

A person working part time at a fast-food restaurant, for example, would likely not pay a premium and would still have Medicaid benefits, but someone earning $20,000 a year would likely pay a small premium to retain the benefits.

Fact Box

How to apply
There are three forms to complete to be eligible:
¯ JFS 07200—Application for all Job and Family Services programs, including cash assistance, food stamps and Medicaid.
¯ For JFS O7211—Application for Medicaid Buy-In for Workers with Disabilities.
¯ Form JFS 07236—Rights and Responsibilities.
¯ For the forms—Contact Washington County Job & Family Services, 373-5513.

More information
¯ Medicaid Consumer Hotline: 1-800-324-8680/voice or 1-800-2923572/TTY.

 
 
 

 

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