Politics Reflections

Truly ABLE?

Americans w Disabilities Act Annual Celebration by Jay Baker at Baltimore County, Maryland
Americans with Disabilities Act Annual Celebration by Jay Baker at Baltimore County, Maryland

I love New York. Not in a “sing my way down Broadway” sort of way, but in getting lost down the side street maze sort of way. I love the grit that the ever pressing force of gentrification seems to be pushing out; but more importantly, I feel absolutely anonymous when I am in the city. For someone who has spent a majority of their lives trying to ignore stares and being asked to explain what is “wrong with them” to complete strangers, not being the strangest thing someone encounters in their day can be a relief; being anonymous is freeing.

It is for this reason that the Achieving a Better Life Experience (or ABLE) Act is a concern to me. The ABLE Act, if passed by both the house and the Senate would allow persons with disabilities to accrue more that $2,000 in savings tax free without disqualifying them from applying for government assistance programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Many politicians liken it to a college savings account parents can open for children at a young age and it has gone largely unopposed, being passed in the House on December 3 with a vote of 404-17. However, having a college savings account comes with no stigma attached, marrying your purchasing power with your disability just might.

Don’t get me wrong, everything about the Able Act sounds good on paper, but I worry about its eventual practice. It is already difficult to qualify for a loan, but with an unemployment rate of over 80% the disabled face more hurdles than most as our employment status, and therefore our ability to qualify for and pay back a loan, could cause us to be turned away at the door. This is why The Americans with Disabilities Act  made certain that persons with disabilities could not legally be compelled to identify themselves as disabled; so that they may not face discrimination.

Boehner by Mattias Gugel Medill via Flikr Creative Commons
John Boehner by Mattias Gugel Medill

Another concern are the mumblings that the ABLE Act could help the disabled pay for unanticipated medical expenses. John Boenher, Speaker of the House and the man Championing the Act, is currently trying to win over the GOP and prevent them from shutting the government down once again (as though this is different from their everyday work or lack thereof—or is that congress? I can’t tell anymore). One of their continuing platforms is the repeal of The Affordable Care Act and the reduction of government assistance expenditures. The passage of the ABLE act seems like the prerequisite for granting the GOP their wish. And how exactly do you take this first step virtually unopposed? By championing an act that if anyone opposed would turn them into a political pariah. I mean, who would be against something that helps the disabled? Ensuring that we are more capable of building savings means that we are theoretically able to pay for additional costs like individual health insurance and related expenses. What else would be your first step to reduce public assistance programs that happen to help the disabled but to make certain they have a way to pay for the additional health fees?

At any rate, the ABLE Act is a risk, one that I am not quite sure that I would like to participate in just yet. I will let them work out the kinks and check back with them in a year or so (or so). I would much rather see them take steps to reduce the unemployment rate of disabled citizens so that they have something to save in the first place, but that’s just me. For now, I’m keeping my anonymity.

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