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Health-Care Ruling Affects Students, Adults With Disabilities

In particular for families of children with disabilities, Thursday's Supreme Court ruling upholding most of the Affordable Care Act may come as a huge relief.

Other government health insurance programs, including Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, have filled some of the gaps in health insurance coverage for people with disabilities before the health care law, but they didn't go far enough.

Dr. Paul Lipkin, who works with children who have developmental disorders, and has also worked closely with children with cerebral palsy and premature infants, said these families may be especially grateful for some of the law's provisions.

For one thing, the law removes lifetime limits on coverage that many insurance companies now pose.

"For a person with chronic health issues, lifetime caps have always been something that have been feared," Lipkin said. A child with cerebral palsy may have run up hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical expenses by the time they are an adult.

For some people, the caps could be worked around by switching insurers, but for children with disabilities and their families, that wasn't much of an option: The disability was considered a preexisting condition and grounds for a company to deny coverage.

"These families will have continuous coverage and not have to worry about being left out," he said.

And the provision that children can stay on their parents health insurance coverage through age 26 is especially important for children with disabilities, he said. Children with disabilities may make their way more slowly from high school to a career, and some of their employment options may not include health insurance coverage.

"This provides a greater buffer and more time to get their health care figured out," he said.

There was one setback in the ruling, as Disability Scoop reports. The justices ruled against a provision requiring states to expand Medicaid to include people earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, or the states would lose federal funds. The court struck down that requirement.

If the ruling leads states to decide against expanding Medicaid, many people with disabilities could be shortchanged if they earn too much, said Marty Ford, director of public policy at The Arc, told Disability Scoop.

You'll find other information about the healthcare law and how it will impact people with disabilities here.

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