Disability group reps say people with disabilities often face preventable barriers to getting adequate care.

Three disability rights groups are asking Covered California to work harder to flag users with disabilities.

Representatives from the groups say Covered California, a state-based Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) public exchange, should add questions about how well applicants function to its coverage application.

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Covered California already asks applicants whether they have any disabilities, or whether applicants are using long-term care (LTC) services.

“In light of historic insurance industry biases against disability and pre-existing conditions, as well as the continuing social stigma of disability and potential uncertainty about how long-term care and community based services are defined, neither question is likely to solicit an accurate answer,” the disability rights group representatives say in a letter sent to Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee. “Plan attempts to simply ask members or applicants if they have a disability are equally unlikely to obtain accurate results.”

When the Census Bureau conducts the American Community Survey (ACS), it asks participants six questions to see if they have disabilities. The bureay asks the participants whether they have trouble with hearing, seeing, thinking, moving, caring for themselves or living independently. Adding the six ACA functional limitation questions to the exchange application could help the exchange do a better job of identifying and helping people with disabilities, the reps say.

“It will take time and conscious outreach to build trust among consumers to voluntarily self-report functional limitations,” the reps say. They say people will eventually begin answered questions about functional limitations accurately, just as they have begun responding to questions about race and ethnicity.

Identifying exchange users with disabilities is important because, in some cases, people with disabilities may have trouble getting care due to flawed program rules or measurable, preventable physical barriers, the reps say.

The reps have written on behalf of the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers and Disability Rights California. 

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