On July 1, Governor Wolf signed Act 69 of 2021 into law, expanding the eligibility criteria for the Medical Assistance for Workers with Disabilities (MAWD) program.
The Act, which goes into effect in January 2022, is a significant victory and an important step forward in Pennsylvania’s Employment First efforts to help people with disabilities who want to work be able to get and keep competitive integrated employment. The MAWD expansion law will enable individuals on MAWD to seek and accept higher-paying jobs; accept a pay raise or promotion at their current employment; and/or work more hours. Too often, people with disabilities must turn down jobs or promotions to keep their income under the limit for Medicaid, especially for Home and Community-Based Services Waiver programs that provide services and supports aimed at achieving and enhancing independence. The legislation will also allow some individuals on MAWD to save more money.
The passage of the new legislation is the result of advocacy efforts led by people with disabilities, especially Dr. Josie Badger. Working with Mary Anderson Hartley and the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s #I Want to Work Campaign, Dr. Badger and other people with disabilities as well as their advocates identified the problem, developed a solution, and obtained the support of key state legislators, particularly Senator Bob Mensch and Representative Kate Klunk. PHLP staff, along with Brian Baxter, developed the explanation as to how the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) could expand MAWD income eligibility consistent with federal law. In subsequent meetings with key DHS staff, Dr. Badger, Ms. Hartley, Mr. Baxter and PHLP staff were able to convince DHS that expanding the MAWD eligibility criteria was both legally permissible and necessary to enable people with disabilities to seek and obtain competitive integrated employment that pays well without the risk of losing essential supports that are only available through the Medicaid program.
Act 69 of 2021 Highlights
Before the Act goes into effect in January, DHS will be working out the details to implement the changes. PHLP will continue to report on this as information becomes available.
Act 69 of 2021 amends Act 77 of 2001, the Tobacco Settlement Act which is the law that first created the MAWD program in Pennsylvania. Since its creation, the program has helped many working Pennsylvanians with disabilities get or keep Medicaid coverage, and sometimes also Home and Community-Based Services, for a modest monthly premium of five percent of the individual’s countable income. Details on the MAWD program as it is currently administered can be found on PHLP’s website. It is important to note that there is a special rule that allows people who clinically qualify for a Medicaid Home & Community-Based Services Waiver Program to financially qualify under the MAWD rules.
Act 69 of 2021 makes the following changes to Pennsylvania’s MAWD program:
- Creates a new category of MAWD called “Worker with Job Success.”
- Increases the income ceiling for those on already on MAWD: The new law allows working individuals who have been on MAWD for the previous 12 consecutive months to keep MAWD coverage when their income goes above the current MAWD income limit (250% of FPL) so long as their income, after earned income deductions, does not exceed 600% of the FPL. These individuals will move into the new “Worker with Job Success” category of MAWD. Note: Persons applying for MAWD for the first time cannot apply for the new MAWD category (Worker with Job Success) given the requirement that someone must have MAWD for 12 months before they can qualify for the new category with the higher income limits.
- Allows for any assets accumulated by a Worker with Job Success, while enrolled in that category, to be disregarded. This would allow MAWD enrollees to remain eligible should they save or get assets that exceed $10,000, even if they subsequently have to reduce their working hours and go back into the regular category of MAWD.
- Increases monthly MAWD premiums for most people in the Workers with job success category to 7.5% (from 5%).
If you have question about this new law, please contact PHLP’s Helpline at 1-800-274-3258 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to see more information about DHS’ efforts to support people with disabilities who want to pursue competitive integrated employment.