Please read through this policy proposal by Elizabeth Warren regarding the reform of disabled people’s rights. Skim if you have to, but please take a look.
Our current disability system, though well-intentioned, is shamefully outdated. It does not reflect the reality of what it costs to live in America today even if you are able-bodied, let alone if you have a disability that prevents you from working regular hours at a “normal” job. Instead, it actually penalizes you if you make more than $910 per month (regardless of what you receive in disability benefits, whether it’s $1 or the maximum of around $3,000 per month – and the average is on the lower end of that spectrum).
Ask yourself: could you live on $910 per month and be able to afford rent, buy food and utilities, and pay health insurance premiums (which, though a lot of people don’t seem to know it, you still have to pay even on Medicare)? Now add to your calculations the thousands of dollars that many disabled people have to pay every single month for out-of-network medical care, medications and supplements, and medical equipment, and you will have an idea of how ludicrously cruel and draconian our current disability system is. And that’s just SSDI: some people only qualify for SSI, in which case you get to keep the first $85 you make, after which 50% of every dollar you make is confiscated. (Can you believe it? A whole $85! I guess you can afford that new $4,400 a month antibiotic that is the only one in its class which Medicare doesn’t cover – which is a real example of a medication I had to take for a while recently; the only reason I’m not naming it is to avoid a frivolous SLAPP suit). Warren’s plan does much to improve these issues.
Adding to this financial burden is the fact that people on Medicare are not allowed to use coupons for new drugs, because that is technically considered to be a government kickback. So that amazing new drug that could help or even cure your disability but requires a $1,200 monthly copay – which the pharmaceutical company offers a coupon to let you pay just $10 for – is beyond your reach. The result: the people who need new treatments the most can’t legally afford them. Senator Warren does not address this in her plan, but I very much hope she will eventually, and I will try to reach her myself to let her know.
Disabled people have the highest amount of essential costs of any group of people. But unless they are privileged with a wealthy family who can help out, they are literally forced to live in poverty, where they are often unable to afford basic life necessities (let alone the high level of medical care that they require). I applaud Senator Warren for bringing attention to this vital issue, and for her detailed policy on how to begin reforming this vital system.