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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release December 17, 1999


                           December 17, 1999

Today, in a ceremony at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, President Clinton will sign into law the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999. This landmark legislation makes it possible for millions of Americans with disabilities to join the workforce without fear of losing their Medicaid and Medicare coverage. It also modernizes the employment services system for people with disabilities. Enactment of this legislation is a major achievement for president Clinton, who championed the proposal in last year's budget. The President today will praise Senators Jeffords, Kennedy, Roth and Moynihan, as well as Congressmen Lazio, Waxman, Bliley and Dingell, for their Bipartisan efforts on this historic legislation. Finally, he will direct his Cabinet to move swiftly to implement the Act.

MILLIONS OF AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES FACE BARRIERS TO EMPLOYMENT. Since President Clinton and Vice President Gore took office, the American economy has added over 20 million new jobs. Unemployment is at a 29-year low of 4.1 percent. But the unemployment rate among working-age adults with severe disabilities is nearly 75 percent. While people with disabilities bring tremendous energy and talent to the American workforce, outdated institutional barriers often limit their opportunities to work. Under current law, people with disabilities often become ineligible for Medicaid or Medicare if they work, putting them in the untenable position of choosing between health care coverage and work.

THIS NEW LAW HELPS BRING DOWN THOSE BARRIERS, AND PRESIDENT CLINTON PLEDGES SWIFT IMPLEMENTATION The Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999 will break down these barriers and help the nation tap the full talents of the millions of Americans who are disabled. The President today will:

Highlight the important provisions of the Work Incentives Improvement Act. This landmark new legislation creates two new options for states to offer a Medicaid buy-in for workers with disabilities. It also provides $150 million in grants to encourage states to take this option; creates a new $250 million Medicaid buy-in demonstration to help people whose disability is not yet so severe that they cannot work; extends Medicare coverage for an additional 4-and-a-half years for people in the disability insurance system who return to work; and enhances employment-related services for individuals with disabilities through the new "Ticket to Work" Program.

Direct his Cabinet to move swiftly to implement this legislation. Today, President Clinton will instruct Secretary Herman, Secretary Shalala, Secretary Riley, and SSA Administrator Kenneth Apfel to work with states, providers, advocates and employers nationwide to implement this important legislation rapidly. He will call for effective collaboration to ensure that the Medicaid and Medicare programs work closely with agencies overseeing worker retraining and rehabilitation services.

Encourage states to take advantage of the new health care coverage options under this legislation. The President will challenge states to take advantage of these new options to offer Medicaid to individuals who are not eligible under existing options, including people with disabilities who take advantage of the options provided under the new law. He also will encourage states to apply for the new $250 million demonstration program that tests whether early medical intervention, made possible through an affordable Medicaid benefit, will enable people with early symptoms of HIV, muscular dystrophy, Parkinson's Disease, or diabetes to stay healthier and keep working.

Commend the work of the Presidential Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities. The first report of the Presidential Task Force on Employment of Adults laid the foundation for the Work Incentives Improvement Act legislation. At the ceremony, the President will thank the Task Force for all its work on this issue over the past two years and accept the Task Force's second report, which will be transmitted to him today.

THE CLINTON-GORE ADMINISTRATION'S LONGSTANDING COMMITMENT TO INCREASE OPPORTUNITY FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES. President Clinton and Vice President Gore have a longstanding commitment to opening the doors of the workplace to more people with disabilities. The Administration has taken a number of actions, including: creating the Task Force two years ago to coordinate national policy efforts to increase employment of people with disabilities; including in last year's budget a historic $2 billion initiative to provide a $1,000 tax credit for work-related expenses for people with disabilities, to invest in technology to help more people with disabilities work, and to fully fund the Work Incentives Improvement Act; putting in place new regulations in February to make work pay for people with disabilities receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), by allowing them to earn more and still receive critical cash and medical benefits; directing the federal government -- the nation's largest employer -- to take new steps to hire more people with disabilities; issuing an executive order in June expanding hiring opportunities for people with psychiatric disabilities; and directing all federal agencies to increase employment of individuals with disabilities.