A Bill, pending in Congress, would end the two-year waiting period for Medicare benefits for people who qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) – individuals who have suffered a medical condition that renders them unable to work (“Permanently and Totally Disabled”). Medicare coverage is currently available to individuals who are determined to be eligible for SSD benefits, but not until 29 months after the month in which SSD eligibility is determined. For those without private insurance, who can’t afford COBRA, or whose costs exceed the catastrophic limits of their private coverage, the 29 month wait creates serious financial hardship and often leads to impoverishment for those who need to spend down for Medicaid coverage. Some couples must consider divorce to protect the non-disabled spouse.

Please ask your Senators and Representative to co-sponsor the Ending the Medicare Disability Waiting Period Act of 2009 (S. 700/H.R. 1708), which will end this two-year waiting period and give people with disabilities access to the health coverage that they are guaranteed under Medicare. The bill has significant support, including co-sponsorship by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Chair of the powerful Senate H.E.L.P. Committee. However, it is urgent that additional Senators and Representatives sign on as cosponsors to create pressure for the provisions of this bill to be included in the health care reform package this year. If your Senators or Representative cosponsored the same bill in the last Congress (Senate cosponsors 2007-8House cosponsors 2007-8), but have not yet cosponsored this year, be sure to thank them for their previous support while urging them to sign on again this year.

Please contact your representative in Congress to discuss this Bill.

To learn more, read Too Sick to Work, Too Soon for Medicare: The Human Cost of the Two-Year Medicare Waiting Period for Americans with Disabilities.