The Impact Tightening Medicaid Eligibility May Have on Disabled in Arizona

Q: How would work requirements for Medicaid impact disabled Arizonans?

Anyone who has gone through the process of applying for Social Security disability insurance benefits in Arizona (“SSDI”) knows how difficult and time-consuming the application process is– – especially if the initial application is denied. Some people take months and even years to get through the appeals process as their personal, financial, and medical situation worsens. In one month alone recently, 63% of initial disability claims nationwide were rejected.

If the sobering statistic above is not enough incentive to seek the advice of the skilled Arizona Social Security disability law firm to increase the odds that an application could be stronger and the process could be streamlined and the approval rate may be greater, then the potential impact of some recent proposed changes in Arizona Medicaid guidelines might change your mind.

Arizona’s Medicaid system –known as the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (“AHCCCS”) –has been generally seen as an effective model for other states. However, the alarming statistic that “one in four Arizonans is on our AHCCCS program” has stretched resources and caused critics too call for change.

Arizona is one of the first states proposing to add work requirements and a five-year lifetime limit on “able-bodied” adult enrollees in Medicaid. While no state has yet to obtain federal approval of work requirements for Medicaid, “clear signals” reportedly exist that the current administration may look favorably on the reform–and that prospect has disabled people understandably worried.

The term “able-bodied” is defined as “anyone over age 19 who is mentally and physically capable of working”. Exceptions reportedly include:

  • high school students over age 19
  • sole caregivers of children under 6
  • those qualified for the Arizona Long-Term Care system ALTCS
  • long-term disability insurance recipients.

While proponents insist that the most vulnerable people will be protected, there is reportedly troubling language in the proposal which critics argue “does not specifically exempt people with disabilities and mental health issues”. That language– another exception to the “able-bodied” definition–reportedly excludes those “determined to be physically or mentally unfit for employment by a healthcare professional in accordance with rules adopted by the administration”.

As previously noted, long-term disability is an exception to the work requirement, however many people with chronic health issues don’t qualify for long-term disability at all, while others wait for what could be years to qualify.

The alleged intention behind work requirements is to generally make Medicaid more of the temporary safety net and “bridge out of poverty “it was originally intended to be and to stop most able-bodied people from choosing not to work so they can maintain free health insurance. This change will thereby make the program more efficient and contain costs—which is literally incorporated into the name of the AHCCCS. Disability advocates are understandably concerned.

If you or a loved one is disabled and need assistance applying for Social Security disability benefits for appealing a denial of benefits, the disability attorneys of Arizona at Roeschke Law, can help you any step of the way. Contact us for a free consultation.

From our offices in Phoenix, Tempe, and Tucson, we fight for the rights of the disabled throughout Arizona.