President Clinton has announced his support of a $2 billion, 5-year program that was crafted to help the nation’s disabled return to work. The package of health care coverage, tax credits, and improved rehabilitation services will be introduced next week by co-sponsors Senators James Jeffords (R-VT) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA). In a public statement, Kennedy wrote of his hope that the legislation would lead to “the fulfillment of every disabled person’s dream to work, live independently and be a contributing member of society.”
Proponents of the plan say that an inability to afford health coverage is the number one obstacle to disabled Americans who are looking to return to the workforce after an injury. In response, the program will provide money for health care and encourage states to allow the disabled into the Medicaid, even when an applicant exceeds income limits or when his or her physical condition improves.
Competition among rehabilitative services would be spurred by allowing patients to choose their own providers, and by offering bonuses to rehabilitators that place patients in jobs after treatment. Tax credits would also be given to pay for transportation, special equipment, and new technologies that would allow the disabled to function in the workplace.
Currently, less than 1/2 of 1 percent of the 10 million people receiving disability benefits ever return to work. This number includes people in the Social Security system for workers and the Supplemental Security Income program.