THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
I am extremely pleased that the House, by an overwhelming bipartisan vote today, passed legislation that will remove barriers to work for Americans with disabilities. Today's impressive vote for the Work Incentives Improvement Act sends a strong signal that all Americans, including people with disabilities, should have the opportunity to work. Now I call on Congress to finish the job, so more Americans can start to work.
My Administration has helped create more than 19 million new jobs in the last six and a half years, and unemployment is at a 29-year low. Yet almost three out of four Americans with severe disabilities who want to work are not working. Since taking office, I have made empowering and promoting the independence of people with disabilities a priority. Central to this effort is taking down barriers to work for people with disabilities. One of the biggest barriers these Americans face is the fear of losing their health insurance when they get a job. Under current law, many people with disabilities cannot work and keep their Medicaid or Medicare coverage, creating a tremendous disincentive to work.
The Work Incentives Improvement Act would help ensure that people with disabilities do not lose their health care when they gain a job. It would give workers with disabilities the option to buy into Medicaid and would extend Medicare coverage for people with disabilities who return to work. The Work Incentives Improvement Act also modernizes the vocational rehabilitation system by creating a "ticket" that enables an SSI or SSDI beneficiary to go to either a public or private provider of vocational rehabilitation.
In my State of the Union Address nine months ago, I urged the Congress to make this historic legislation a top priority, and I fully funded it in the budget I sent to Congress. Like the House, the Senate has overwhelmingly passed the Work Incentives Improvement Act, thanks to the leadership of Senators Jeffords, Kennedy, Roth, and Moynihan. The bill that passed today has flaws. These include limitations on the health options and inadequate and problematic financing provisions, particularly one affecting student loans. I urge the Congress to address these issues this year and send me this legislation. Americans with disabilities who want to work should not have to wait any longer for that opportunity.