March 04,1999


first bill will help disabled individuals go to work; second bill will prevent seniors on Medicaid from being "dumped" out of nursing homes

WASHINGTON -- The Senate Finance Committee today favorably reported two bipartisan bills, without amendment, to the Senate floor. The Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999 was passed by a vote of 16 yeas and 2 nays; the Nursing Home Residential Security Act of 1999 received a vote of 18 yeas and 0 nays.

Background on legislation reported out today:

1. S. 331, The Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999 (introduced in the Senate by Senators Roth, Moynihan, Jeffords and Kennedy)

People with disabilities are often presented with a Catch-22 between working and losing their Medicaid or Medicare benefits. This is a choice they should not have to make. But even modest earnings can result in a loss of eligibility for Medicaid or Medicare. Without health insurance, medical treatment often becomes prohibitively expensive for individuals with disabilities. Without medical treatment, it becomes impossible for many to work.

The Work Incentives Improvement Act was introduced by Senator Roth last month to address this dilemma. It helps disabled individuals enter the workforce without losing their health benefits by creating two new, entirely voluntary, state Medicaid options. The first option builds on a change enacted in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 which permits people with disabilities who qualify for Supplemental Security Income but who have incomes higher than the SSI eligibility cut-off to buy into Medicaid.

The second option allows states to permit individuals with a severe, medically determinable impairment who would otherwise lose eligibility because of medical improvement to buy into Medicaid.

2. S.494, The Nursing Home Residential Security Act of 1999 (introduced in the Senate by Senators Roth, Graham, Grassley and Moynihan)

Nearly 90 percent of all nursing homes participate in the Medicaid program. The Nursing Home Residential Security Act of 1999 prevents nursing homes from evicting residents covered by Medicaid if the nursing home withdraws from participation in the Medicaid program.

While rare, evictions are devastating to the residents affected. If a facility decides to stop serving Medicaid residents, this bipartisan bill would ensure that current residents do not find themselves removed from their nursing home.

The legislation requires that nursing homes withdrawing from the Medicaid program continue to care for current residents under Medicaid quality standards. Facilities would essentially phase-down participation in Medicaid rather than dropping from the program overnight.