October is best known for ghosts, ghouls and trick-or-treating. But you may not be aware it’s also “National Disability Employment Awareness Month.”
With this designation, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) has joined with President Obama to underscore the government’s commitment to serving every American worker, including the millions living with disabilities.
Despite technological advances and government programs designed to bridge gaps and open doors for disabled Americans, we continue to struggle with the historic underemployment of people with disabilities.
Of the estimated 54 million individuals living with chronic disability, nearly 60 percent are currently unemployed. That’s roughly 33 million people, many of whom are willing and able to work, yet are left out of the workforce due to the tough economic times but also sadly, in numerous cases, disability-based discrimination.
As Congress continues hammering out the details on health insurance reform, there related legislative remedies to empower Americans with disabilities to achieve a higher quality of life through joining or re-entering the workforce.
The health reform plan under consideration in the House will make major headway toward this objective. It would do this in part by incentivizing health care providers and patients to focus on the management of chronic disability and disease, as opposed to solely focusing on the treatment of the symptoms of the condition, as is the case under the current system. To reach this goal, major insurance market reforms such as the elimination of discrimination based on health status and the prohibition on excluding people based on pre-existing conditions must occur. It also requires expanded access to quality, affordable coverage for all Americans, through a lower cost, so-called “public” insurance option.
Not only would these measures reorient the U.S. healthcare system away from the current “sickness” based model, it would save taxpayers money and provide access to better, more holistic care. At the end of the day, countless people with disabilities would be able to lead more productive lives, empowered by their inclusion in the American workforce.