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Working Age Medicare Beneficiaries with Disabilities: Population Characteristics and Policy Considerations

Author: JAE KENNEDY and IULIA BALBACH TULEU
Published in JHHSA, Vol. 30 No. 3

Compared to older beneficiaries, disabled workers who
become eligible for Medicare 25 months after they are deemed eligible
for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), receive little research
attention or policy consideration. This is unfortunate, because of the
special medical and vocational needs, high healthcare costs, and rapid
growth of this population. Although disabled workers comprise only
14.1% of the total Medicare population, they account for about 17%
($71.6 billion) of total program expenditures. This review article finds
that disabled workers are a medically heterogeneous population, with
relatively high rates of psychiatric and cognitive conditions. Poor
health, low incomes, and lack of access to affordable supplemental
coverage make this group particularly vulnerable to program
limitations and policy changes. Coverage gaps and co-payments may
limit access to critical health services, including preventive services,
rehabilitation, adaptive technology, personal assistance, and
prescription drugs. Access to stable and affordable health insurance
coverage is an essential part of return to work programming for SSDI
beneficiaries.

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