Patient Advocacy Groups Support Legislation to Eliminate Two-Year Medicare Waiting Period

The Coalition to End the Two-Year Wait for Medicare enthusiastically supports the introduction of the Ending the Medicare Disability Waiting Period Act of 2009. The Act would eliminate the current two-year delay in coverage for people with severe disabilities who are waiting to become eligible for Medicare coverage.

Among the advocacy groups in support of this bill, are the Special Needs Alliance (SNA) and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA). Bernard A. Krooks, a founding partner of Littman Krooks LLP, is current President of the SNA and past President of the NAELA.

The Coalition consists of over 115 organizations that work to ensure access to health care for people with disabilities. The Coalition is urging Congress to make coverage for people with disabilities a priority while addressing the issue of national health care reform.

The 24 month waiting period has been in effect since 1972 when Congress stipulated that people with disabilities must first receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for 24 months before gaining Medicare eligibility. The legislation to address this issue, introduced by Senator Jeff Bingaman and Representative Gene Green, will phase-out the waiting period for all people with disabilities over ten years, while immediately eliminating the waiting period for people with life-threatening conditions.

The 24 month waiting period has resulted in many individuals with disabilities going without health insurance during their wait. Nearly 40 percent of people with disabilities are without health insurance coverage at some point during their wait for Medicare; 24 percent have no health insurance during this entire period. The waiting period forces people with severe disabilities to endure two years during which treatment and care of their conditions are put at risk. Many forgo medical treatment and/or stop taking medications, compromising their already fragile health and resulting ultimately in conditions that are often more costly to treat when Medicare coverage finally begins.

The Special Needs Alliance (SNA) is a national, not-for-profit organization of attorneys dedicated to the practice of disability and public benefits law. Individuals with disabilities, their families and their advisors rely on the SNA to connect them with nearby attorneys who focus their practices in the disability law arena. SNA membership is based on a combination of relevant legal experience in the disability and special needs planning fields, direct family experience with disability, active participation with national, state and local disability advocacy organizations, and professional reputation. SNA members average 20 years of experience in special needs planning and disability law.

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