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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Research Finds Individuals with Disabilities More Likely to be Employed in States with Expanded Medicaid

Individuals with disabilities are significantly more likely to be employed if they live in a state that has expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, a new study has found. The findings show expansion has allowed individuals with disabilities to increase their employment and not be required to live in total poverty to maintain their Medicaid coverage. Expansion not only enables people with disabilities to work more, which research has shown leads to greater quality of life, but contradicts the argument some have made that Medicaid expansion would “kill jobs” or be prohibitively expensive.

“Our finding has two major health and policy implications. First, in Medicaid expansion states, working-age adults with disabilities no longer will be required to be impoverished and apply for federal disability benefits to be eligible for public health insurance coverage,” the researchers wrote. “Second, to the extent that increased earnings and asset accumulation lead to improved health outcomes and decreased dependence on cash assistance, the shift from means-tested Medicaid coverage to expansion coverage could result in long-term cost savings to state and federal governments.”

Debate about the Affordable Care Act has been intense and discussions of repealing or replacing it have intensified since the election. This article sheds a great deal of light on the importance of the ACA and its impact on Medicaid expansion across the nation, both for states that have opted to expand Medicaid and those still considering this option.

“Medicaid expansion is empowering people with disabilities to go to work, and we would hate to see that rolled back because we could lose those gains.” – Jean Hall 

The study was authored by Jean Hall, director of the Institute for Health and Disability Policy Studies, a collaboration between the Life Span Institute at KU and the Department of Health Policy and Management at the KU Medical Center; Adele Shartzer of the Urban Institute; Noelle Kurth, senior research assistant at the Life Span Institute, and Kathleen Thomas of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. It was published in the American Journal of Public Health.

See also: University of Kansas Press Release – Researchers will study Affordable Care Act’s effects on people with disabilities