On July 26th, our country marked the 22nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It was – and continues to be – a landmark piece of civil rights legislation.
Throughout my life, I have had the opportunity to see the ADA in action. I’ve written before about how the ADA is continually evolving, literally changing for the better how people with disabilities live their lives and plan their futures. In June, people with disabilities were directly impacted by another piece of landmark legislation when the United States Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The ADA literally opened doors for people with disabilities. The ACA has leveled the playing field, making it possible for people with disabilities to actually play in the game. Simply put, the ACA stands to have lasting repercussions for people with disabilities and their loved ones.
Under the ACA, young adults can remain on their parents’ health insurance until age 26. At The Disability Project, we recognize that it takes a longer time for a person with a disability to find sustainable employment. Our students often have to work with potential employers to overcome misconceptions about accommodating a person with a disability in the workplace. The opportunity for extended benefits gives our students a transitional period between graduation and their first job. Equally important is the peace of mind a parent gains in carrying their child with a disability on their health insurance coverage until age 26.
Because of the ACA, insurance companies can no longer deny health insurance coverage to children because of a pre-existing condition. They can’t deny adults with a pre-existing condition, either. Pre-existing conditions can run the spectrum. Perhaps it’s a child with autism. Perhaps it’s a mother who beat breast cancer. For a parent of a child with a disability – or even for a person with a disability – a pre-existing condition often restricts rather than expands employment opportunities. Now, one can take that entrepreneurial risk without the fear of how to care for a loved one with a pre-existing condition. Or, they can simply obtain health insurance coverage without the prevailing concern of how a pre-existing condition will impact their family’s financial future.
Finally, the ACA eliminates the lifetime dollar limit on health insurance coverage. Whether you are like me and were born with a disability or it is the result of a catastrophic event such as an accident or injury, the costs of living with a disability can be exponential. The lifetime cap has always been a looming concern for people with disabilities, their loved ones and friends. Its elimination is a significant milestone in the journey of people with disabilities.
As our population ages and remains active, healthcare coverage for all Americans – including those with disabilities – has become increasingly important for us to live meaningful and productive lives. These two landmark acts undoubtedly will continue to play a key role as we collectively continue to move forward.