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Disability Insurance Observer: The Budget Crisis

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Members of the congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction — the Super Committee — failed to reach the goal of coming up with $1.2 trillion in proposed deficit reduction measures in part because so many of the cuts that could be made are hard to think about.

For anyone but the most fervent, least sentimental libertarian, it’s hard to think about selling off the national parks, shutting down NASA and seeing if Google or Facebook might have any interest in keeping Amtrak going.

The idea of cutting federal funding for programs that help people with serious disabilities is even harder to contemplate.

Certainly, there are waste and fraud in all human endeavors, including programs that serve people with disabilities, and that must be found and rooted out. But it does not seem as if transportation programs that help people who cannot walk get around or programs that provide home health aides for people who are confined to bed are flush with cash.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office and officials at the Social Security Administration have often pointed to private disability insurers and their case management and return-to-work programs as models for how federal agencies can improve federal programs, such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), that serve people with disabilities.

In some cases, those programs can help disability insurers, employers and purchasers of individual income protection policies hold down costs.

Group long-term disability (LTD) plans, for example, often hold down claims costs and premiums by coordinating the LTD payments with SSDI benefits, to avoid providing redundant benefits for insureds who qualify for SSDI.

If the agencies implementing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA) succeed at bringing the many PPACA programs aimed at helping people with serious disabilities to efficient life, perhaps those programs could help reduce the amounts LTD insurers spend on benefits for the beneficiaries with the most serious disabilities and improve those beneficiaries’ quality of life.

The Healthcare at Home Initiative, Washington — a coalition that includes many groups that represent people with disabilities and their caregivers, such as the Association of People with Disabilities and the National Association for the Support of Long Term Care — have called on Congress to think carefully when looking at funding for people who get Medicare and Medicaid benefits for home care.

Of course, every organization representing every group of people with any kind of need whatsoever thinks Congress should think twice before cutting that group’s federal funding, but it seems as if disability insurers and disability insurance producers understand the needs of people with disabilities, understand what works and what doesn’t, and could have an important role to play in ensuring that any cuts that are made in that area are carefully thought out and do as much as possible to maintain the quality of life of people who may not have an easy time fending for themselves.


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