New Jersey’s Medicaid Workability program has enabled many individuals with disabilities to live more meaningful and productive lives by allowing them to work without fear of losing their Medicaid benefits. The program allowed participants to receive Medicaid while working and having assets and income exceeding the strict financial criteria. New legislation expands the program substantially, and by eliminating the income limit, relieves individuals with disabilities of the need to decide between work or Medicaid.
Previously the income requirements limited the amount that individuals could earn and remain on Medicaid. Moreover, there were substantially lower limits for certain unearned income. This prohibited many individuals who receive Social Security benefits because of their parent’s work records from participating in the program. This meant that program participants suddenly were forced to give up their jobs to keep their Medicaid benefits simply because their parent’s life circumstances changed. This will no longer be the case, as there will be no income limitation for eligibility.
The asset limit is also eliminated under the new legislation. This will allow program participants to save for retirement and to purchase a home just as non-disabled working people can. Other important changes are elimination of the spousal income limit and the program age maximum. Previously, Workability recipients lost eligibility for Medicaid when they turned 65. Therefore, disabled beneficiaries were often forced to stop working at age 65. Finally, Workability enrollees will be allowed to remain in the program up to one year after a job loss that occurs through no fault of their own. During the pandemic, many Medicaid beneficiaries lost their jobs, and at the same time lost their Medicaid coverage through Workability. Under the new legislation, Workability enrollees will have a year to find a new job.
The Workability program is a lifeline for individuals who can, and want to, work but need the comprehensive health insurance coverage Medicaid provides. This legislation will allow more people with disabilities to become, and remain, eligible for this program. Unfortunately, the legislation is not immediately effective. It requires Medicaid State Plan approval by the federal government. Once approved at the federal level, this legislation will no doubt benefit not only Workability program enrollees, but also their employers and the entire community.