Clinton pushes health care plan for people with disabilities
Web posted at: 3:02 p.m. EDT (1902 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. President Bill Clinton on Wednesday unveiled a $2 billion package of tax credits and health care incentives designed to encourage disabled Americans to join the work force.
"The balanced budget I will present to Congress fully funds this vitally important initiative," the president said at a White House ceremony, where he endorsed legislation to be introduced next week by Sens. James Jeffords, R-Vermont, and Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts.
The event was the latest in a series highlighting proposals Clinton will include in next week's State of the Union Address.
Administration figures show three-fourths of seriously disabled Americans are unemployed, in part because taking private sector jobs would cost them health care benefits available through government assistance programs. It is, Clinton said, an "impossible choice."
"Americans should never have to choose between the dignity of work and the health care they need," the president said.
The bulk of the proposal -- $1.2 billion in health care incentives -- is aimed at helping states allow disabled workers to buy insurance through the Medicaid program even if their incomes would ordinarily make them ineligible.
Clinton also proposed a $1,000 annual tax credit to help disabled workers with the additional transportation or technology needs they face if the enter the work force, as well as new incentives for disabled Americans to enter job training programs.
"As any disabled person will tell you," the president said, "it takes more than a job to enter the work force."
The proposal also calls for doubling the amount of money now spent on developing technologies to aid people with disabilities in their jobs.
"This kind of assistive technology will empower people as never before," Clinton said.
The president also said he would work with Congress to pass "a strong enforceable patients bill of rights."
Clinton was joined at the White House by Vice President Al Gore, Sens. Jeffords, Kennedy, and Tom Harkin. The president was introduced by South Dakota resident Karen Moore, who said she was forced to ask her employer to reduce her pay by 25 percent so she would not lose her health care benefits.
"Until the barriers in the current health care system are eliminated for people with disabilities," she said, "we will never know economic freedom."
Gore noted that the Clinton administration had now implemented every recommendation made last year by the President's Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities.
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