There are some potentially positive pieces of legislation pending in Washington D.C. Let’s take a look at the Stop the Wait Act, The FAIR Act, and the Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act and how each has the potential to help seniors and those with disabilities.
Stop the Wait Act
Currently, a person with disabilities must wait months to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Then, he or she must wait another five months to get a disability check. Then, the individual must wait another two years to obtain health coverage through Medicare. The Stop the Wait Act aims to end these mandated waiting periods and give those who need it access to crucial benefits and medical care. The Act’s objectives are:
- Require the Social Security Administration to start making payments to SSDI applicants immediately after the applicant is deemed eligible for benefits. This would eliminate the mandatory five-month waiting period.
- Phase out the mandatory 2-year waiting period for Medicare disability benefits.
- Order the National Academy of Medicine to lead a study to ensure that eliminating these waiting periods results in better outcomes for those effected.
The Stop the Wait Act was introduced in the House in September 2019 and is co-sponsored by 35 representatives.
Arbitration has been a hot topic lately, especially mandatory pre-dispute arbitration agreements in nursing home admissions. Back in 2016, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a ban on such arbitration agreements. A few days thereafter, the American Health Care Association, in conjunction with various nursing homes, filed suit. An injunction was awarded. In response, CMS issued a new rule that became effective in September 2019. Pre-dispute arbitration agreements are allowed in nursing home admissions processes under the new rule, but restrictions were given. Again, a lawsuit was filed. The new lawsuit claims that CMS doesn’t have the statutory authority to regulate arbitration agreements – this runs afoul of the Federal Arbitration Act.
The Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal (FAIR) Act, which has been pending since February of this year, aims to prohibit mandatory pre-dispute arbitration agreements in a number of situations – future employment, consumer, antitrust, and civil rights disputes. Although not specifically targeted at nursing homes, “consumer disputes” would cover this territory. If passed, hopefully the tug-of-war between CMS and the health care community will finally come to a rest and we will have some clear guidance on the use of pre-dispute arbitration agreements in the nursing home admissions process.
Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act
This Act would update the income and asset rules pertaining to Supplemental Security Income qualification, to better reflect today’s dollars. The Act would:
- Increase the general income disregard from $20 per month to $123 per month.
This would increase the amount of money an SSI recipient could receive in any given month from non-employment sources, such as a pension, without suffering a dollar-for-dollar reduction in benefits.
- Increase the earned income disregard from $65 per month to $399 per month.
This would increase the amount that an SSI recipient could earn from working without suffering a reduction in benefits.
- Increase the resource limit from $2,000 for a single person to $10,000; increase the resource limit from $3,000 for a married couple to $20,000.
The resource limit is the amount of resources one can have and still qualify for benefits. The increase would allow an applicant to have more in savings and still qualify.
- Repeal the in-kind support and maintenance rule.
The in-kind support and maintenance rule states that if a recipient receives help from another in the form of food or shelter, then the recipient’s benefits will be reduced.
- Repeal the transfer penalty rule.
The transfer penalty rule states that recipients can be penalized for up to three years of ineligibility if he or she transfers a resource.
- Remove marriage penalty by increasing the rate for SSI couples.
Currently, if two SSI recipients are married, their benefits are less than if two unmarried individuals received SSI benefits. This new rule would remove that “penalty” and increase an SSI-recipient couple’s rate to that of two times the individual rate.
The Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act was introduced in the House in September 2019, and is sponsored by Representative Raul Grijalva from Arizona.
These pending Acts could help seniors and those with disabilities, if passed. Get involved in your community and support causes that you care about!