SSI and SSDI Presentation
HEALTH CARE TASK FORCE
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10:27 AM -- Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Presentation
The committee reconvened. Lynnae Flora, Director of Community Assistance with Jefferson County, began the presentation related to a 24-month waiting period for health care coverage provided in conjunction with Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). A packet of information was distributed to the committee (Attachment E). Ms. Flora outlined the problem. There is five-month waiting period for SSDI for a disabled individual, but Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is available immediately. If the disabled individual first receives SSI, he or she automatically qualifies for Medicaid. If the individual has worked enough quarters to qualify, he or she will then become eligible for SSDI at the end of the five-month waiting period. However, once a disabled individual is switched from SSI to SSDI, the individual loses the Medicaid benefit. The client must then wait for up to two years before becoming eligible for Medicare.
Julie Reiskin, Executive Director, Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, explained that the relationship between SSI and SSDI is complicated. SSI is an entitlement program while SSDI is an insurance program. She explained that for both programs, a disability is defined as the inability to work and that individuals have to wait five months to qualify for SSDI, even if there is no dispute that the individual is disabled. She discussed the time and energy necessary to apply for SSI and SSDI, stating that the process of proving disability is humiliating and degrading. She described the experiences that individuals who recently have become disabled may go through. She responded to questions from Representative Massey regarding the process of qualifying for SSI and SSDI. Senator Foster, Ms. Flora, and Ms. Reiskin discussed federal rules in place to prevent fraudulent activity and how those rules affect the ability of individuals to get services. The committee further discussed how disabled individuals obtain care during their two-year waiting period to qualify for SSDI.
Jeanette Hensley, Director, Aging and Adult Services, Colorado Department of Human Services, further explained the SSI and SSDI programs. SSI is a federal cash assistance program that makes monthly payments to aged, blind, and disabled individuals who have limited income and resources. In Colorado, individuals who receive SSI benefits automatically receive Medicaid benefits. The SSDI program provides cash benefits to workers who have become disabled. She described a scenario in which a person attempts to qualify for SSI and SSDI and the benefits provided through the programs. Individuals who are determined to be eligible for SSI are eligible to have their Medicaid benefits backdated for five months. She described the number of individuals who are enrolled in SSI and SSDI in the state, noting that as many as 40,000 individuals in Colorado may be eligible for, but not be receiving, SSI benefits. An estimated 39,000 individuals may be eligible for SSDI but be not receiving benefits. She described a spreadsheet showing the costs to the state Medicaid program of disabled individuals who are in their 24-month waiting period.
Ginny Brown, Legislative Liaison, Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, stated that it is possible that funding from House Bill 09-1293, which implemented a fee on hospitals to be matched with federal funds to expand health care programs, may be able to absorb some of the costs of covering these individuals through Medicaid. She discussed the waivers that will be written to expand public health care coverage as a result of the bill. Panel members and Representative Kerr discussed the costs of caring for individuals who are in the 24-month waiting period. Senator Boyd suggested writing a letter of support to Colorado's congressional delegation on the issue. The committee agreed to draft such a letter. Representative Frangas asked for an estimate of the costs of expanding Medicaid coverage to individuals who are waiting for Medicare coverage through SSDI, and Ms. Brown responded that the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing is working on creating an estimate. Ms. Reiskin asked that the committee include in its letter a suggestion that the definition of disability be disconnected from employment.