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Will Congress Eliminate Disability Waiting Period?

Congress is again considering the Stop the Wait Act, which would eliminate the lengthy wait disability recipients have before they receive benefits and Medicare.

The seemingly arbitrary waiting periods are constant sources of frustration for claimants who have usually never heard of them before.

For Social Security Disability, the system that claimants pay into through payroll taxes when they’re working, it takes five months from the date they’re found disabled before they see their first payment. It’s then two years after that they receive any sort of coverage from Medicare.

Supposedly, the waiting period is to ensure that claimants really do have long-term disabilities, and to save the Social Security program some money, but in reality, it often faces the disabled to dip into what little savings they have or depend on friends and relatives for support.

At a House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health meeting earlier this month, Monica Verduzco-Gutierrez, chair of the Rehabilitation Medicine Department at the University of Texas Health San Antonio Long School of Medicine, testified that the wait for Medicare coverage was just causing patients with long Covid to deteriorate further because they couldn’t receive the care they needed.

While these waiting periods are widely unpopular, and the Stop the Wait Act has bipartisan support, it’s still unclear what chances the bill has of being signed into law.

The bill was previously introduced in 2019, but did not pass then. Still, if it can find the votes in the House and Senate, it seems likely that President Biden would sign it into law.

 

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