Health Care Issues for People with Disabilities
Enactment of health care reform, known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA), is the most significant law for people with disabilities since the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. It will bring about comprehensive reforms that will benefit Americans with disabilities by prohibiting discrimination based on health status and improving access to care. Read The Arc’s in-depth guide for advocates on the ACA, and read a one page summary of the guide for a shorter version. Watch the video below to learn about how the ACA works and how it will benefit all Americans.
One major part of the ACA, the Private Marketplace, will begin offering health insurance in every state on October 1, 2013.
HealthCare.gov provides information on coverage options in each state and shows which private insurance plans, public programs, and community services are available to individuals.
Specific Challenges and Opportunities for People with Disabilities
While The Arc greatly values the many significant improvements brought about by the ACA, the following are likely to remain continuing challenges for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities:
Provider Reimbursement Rates
Medicaid reimbursement rates for primary care physicians, specialists and dentists are very low. This is one of the major reasons why people with disabilities lack access to quality medical and dental care. The new health reform law increases Medicaid reimbursement rates for physicians and pediatricians (but not specialists) for two years (2013 and 2014). Hopefully Congress will extend this increase and cover specialists and dentists.
Health Care Provider Training
Few medical and dental professionals, nurses and other medical staff know how to communicate with and appropriately treat persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Fortunately, the health care reform law contains provisions to assess and increase provider training and educations for persons with disabilities.
Accessible Medical Equipment
Most medical equipment (including examination tables, X-ray and other testing machines) is inaccessible to those who use wheelchairs. The new law, however, requires the federal government to issue accessibility guidelines.
Despite these and other many welcome improvements in the law, the disability community must remain vigilant about their implementation. Almost all of these provisions will be implemented through regulations and guidance from the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Labor as well as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The Arc continues to be actively involved in monitoring and responding to these federal regulations and guidance.