Historically, people with disabilities have faced multiple barriers to quality health care, including: insurance companies that denied health coverage based upon an individual's disability diagnosis; dollar limits placed on benefits; inaccessible health care equipment; and long–term care options limited to nursing homes and institutions. These and other barriers have had a devastating impact on the disability community, resulting in individuals who either receive inadequate care, are forced to receive services in segregated institutions, or who don't receive any coverage whatsoever.
The Affordable Care Act addresses each of these barriers. As a result of the law, more than 17 million children with pre–existing conditions no longer stand the chance of being denied coverage. In 2014, that protection will extend to anyone of any age with a pre–existing condition. The law protects people with disabilities from dollar limits on health benefits, ensuring that people with disabilities will continue to receive the coverage they need. The law improves physical access to medical equipment and services, ensuring that inaccessibility won't get in the way of an individual's health care needs.
In addition, the law furthers the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the 1999 U.S. Supreme Court Olmstead decision, both of which give people with disabilities the right to receive long term care supports in the most integrated setting. The Affordable Care Act supports programs that promote people with disabilities living in their own homes and communities, rather than institutions and nursing homes. The law extends and enhances the Federal Money Follows the Person Program, which in the past five years has helped 20,000 people move out of institutions and into less costly, more independent, community–based settings. The law also creates the Community First Choice Option, which offers the incentive of a six percent increase in Federal Medicaid matching rate for states that provide community services as an alternative to institutional services for people with disabilities enrolled in Medicaid.
All told, the Affordable Care Act supports improved health outcomes and the integration and independence of millions of people with disabilities around the country. If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Affordable Care Act, it will have a devastating impact on the disability community. Speaking about the importance of the law, Amber Smock, Access Living's Director of Advocacy, said,
The Affordable Care Act is the first national initiative that makes it illegal to deny coverage based upon an individual's status as a person with a disability – as many insurers currently do – and ensures that, regardless of the type or severity of disability, people can have much greater access to quality health care services that will enable them to live healthy and independent lives in communities of their choice.
Established in 1980, Access Living is a non–profit, Chicago–based disability rights and service organization that provides individualized, peer–based services for people with disabilities. With a strong influence in public policy and social reform, Access Living is challenging stereotypes, protecting civil rights and breaking institutional and community barriers.