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Employed adults with a disability seek medical coverage guarantee

Imagine having to decide whether to attend your grandmother’s funeral or pay your medical assistance premium. This was the very scenario presented to the House Human Services Policy Committee Monday.

Jillian Nelson is an autistic adult and a recipient of Medical Assistance for Employed Persons with Disabilities.

“Every month I make choices,” said Nelson, community resource and policy advocate with the Autism Society of Minnesota. “Pay my premium or pay my electric bill in full. I shouldn’t have to make these choices.”

HF3419, sponsored by Rep. Kim Hicks (DFL-Rochester), would prohibit the state from denying or terminating program coverage for any person who cannot pay their monthly premium due to a medical condition or loss of employment.

The bill was approved and referred to the House Human Services Finance Committee.

“In essence what this bill would do is just make sure that if you had a bad month at work, you didn’t lose all support to keep you on the planet and in community,” Hicks said.

The premium is based on the recipient’s income; the minimum monthly premium is $35.

Sitting in his wheelchair with his daughter by his side, Bobby Brown of Minneapolis said he was a victim of a drive-by shooting at the age of 15. Before he learned of the medical assistance program, “the fear that I would not be able to afford my medical was more damaging than anything I’ve experienced,” he said, choking up with emotion.

“I need medical supplies just to go to the bathroom,” said Thabiso Rowan of St. Paul, who also uses a wheelchair. The community engagement specialist at Disability Hub MN said he fell from a tree in 2011, resulting in a spinal cord injury. He said he wants to ensure that if he cannot work, he will not lose his state medical assistance coverage.

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