ST. LOUIS, Mo. – According to a recent press release, during a visit to the non-profit organization Paraquad today, Governor Jay Nixon signed House Bill 1565, which makes it easier for Missourians who are elderly, blind or disabled to qualify for Medicaid, including in-home and community-based services.

Governor Jay Nixon

Governor Jay Nixon

The new law, passed with strong bipartisan support in the General Assembly, increases the asset limit to qualify for Medicaid coverage for the aged, blind and disabled for the first time in more than 40 years. The current asset limit is $1,000 for individuals and $2,000 for married couples living together.

“This will help thousands of Missourians live more independent lives,” Gov. Nixon said. “These are folks who just want a chance to be responsible and save for the future, but a law written more than 40 years ago wouldn’t let them. Today, we’re doing something about that.”

Aimee Wehmeier, President and CEO of Paraquad, said low asset limits in Missouri have historically compelled people with significant disabilities to make difficult decisions.

“Essentially, we had to choose between saving money and accessing necessary disability-related supports and services,” Wehmeier said. “In the past, being fiscally responsible and saving money meant losing Medicaid benefits, including health care, personal care services and reimbursements for durable medical equipment. Without these vital services, we would not be able to work or live independently. And without the ability to save money, we are not prepared for future health needs or personal emergencies.”

House Bill 1565 increases the asset limits to qualify for Medicaid coverage for the aged, blind and disabled.  Currently, an individual may have no more than $1,000 in assets, while married people living together may have no more than $2,000 in assets. Under this bill, beginning in FY 2018, this limit will increase annually by $1,000 for individuals and $2,000 for couples living together until the respective limits reach $5,000 and $10,000 by FY 2021. Additionally, there will be a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) each year beginning in FY 2022. It is estimated that the law will result in an additional 10,000 Missourians becoming eligible for Medicaid coverage.

The new law continues a record of strengthening mental health and disability services over the past seven years.

In 2010, Gov. Nixon created the Partnership for Hope, which provides home- and community-based services to Missourians with developmental disabilities and their families. The Partnership for Hope, the first of its kind in the nation, is now helping more than 4,375 people with developmental disabilities in 103 counties and the City of St. Louis.

Also in 2010, Gov. Nixon spearheaded the bipartisan effort to pass the law mandating the coverage of autism diagnosis and treatment. For the first time, insurance companies were required to cover one of the most highly effective types of therapy, Applied Behavioral Analysis, or ABA. While effective, the cost of ABA can exceed tens of thousands of dollars a year, making insurance coverage necessary for most families.

In 2015, United Cerebral Palsy ranked Missouri third in the nation – and second most-improved since 2007 – for providing quality services that improve the lives of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.

Last month, the Governor signed the Fiscal Year 2017 budget, which answers his call for historic investments in services for Missourians with developmental disabilities, mental illness and substance use disorders, increasing state and federal funding for the Department of Mental Health by more than $200 million. Included in this budget is $14 million to ensure that there continues to be no waiting list for in-home services for low-income Missourians with developmental disabilities. When Gov. Nixon took office, many Missourians had to wait months or even years for the services they needed to live independently. Today, that waiting list has been eliminated.