Hawaii awarded $1 million federal centers Medicaid-Medicare Services grant to increase employment of people with disabilities

University of Hawaiʻi
Posted: Mar 11, 2005

HONOLULU — The State of Hawaiʻi has been awarded a two-year, $1 million Medicaid Infrastructure Grant (MIG) by the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services to develop work incentives and services for people with disabilities qualified to work.

The project, called Hire Abilities—Hawaiʻi, represents a unique and innovative collaboration between the Governor‘s Office, Department of Human Services (DHS), and the University of Hawaiʻi and its Center on Disability Studies, as well as the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Labor, Department of Education, and the Hawaiʻi State Legislature.

"I want to commend everyone who worked diligently to secure this important funding for the State of Hawaiʻi. This $1 million grant will lay the foundation for future collaborative efforts to provide employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. This is the first time Hawaiʻi has qualified for this grant, and on behalf of all those who will benefit, we couldn‘t be happier," said Governor Linda Lingle.

Authorized under the Ticket to Work & Work Incentives Improvement Act (TWWIIA), the MIG provides resources to eligible states to remove barriers to employment and develop an infrastructure to support working people with disabilities. The program calls for collaboration across multiple systems of care and aims to clarify, strengthen and integrate disability benefits, vocational rehabilitation, P-20 educational and workforce development systems.

According to state studies, two-thirds of people with significant disabilities in Hawaiʻi wish to work and 60 percent can achieve competitive employment with ongoing support. However, less than 20 percent are actually employed. Through this grant, systems barriers can be corrected, which can help lead to more of Hawaiʻi‘s people successfully joining the workforce.

"The University of Hawaiʻi, through the Center on Disability Studies on our Mānoa campus, is pleased to serve as administrator of this grant, which will aid in providing significant opportunities for persons with disabilities in Hawaiʻi," said UH Interim President David McClain. "Providing access and opportunity for all of Hawaiʻi‘s residents is central to the mission of the university."

A key component of the grant will be exploring the development of a Medicaid Buy-In Option and strengthening available personal assistance services for workers with disabilities in Hawaiʻi. In the current disability benefits system, working appears to jeopardize the benefits that people with disabilities need to get and keep jobs, move out of poverty, and progress in their recovery.

A Medicaid Buy-In Option in Hawaiʻi would allow the local Medicaid office to increase its income eligibility limit, which is currently $1,700 per month, so that working Medicaid beneficiaries could earn more than the current income limit and still maintain their benefits and the vital products and services that Medicaid benefits provide, such as medications, therapy and personal assistance services.

The first year of this potential multi-year project focuses on analyzing the barriers of people with disabilities who are qualified to work, and will rely heavily on input from persons served by the DHS and DOH. For example, the project calls for a participatory action research approach that will involve crucial stakeholders, such as persons with disabilities and their service providers, throughout the planning, research and implementation processes of the project.

Key elements of the project include regular meetings of inter-agency coalitions of stakeholders to determine the feasibility of implementing a Medicaid Buy-In Option, personal assistance services, and other work incentive initiatives. The coalitions will define the features and parameters and plan the implementation in terms of data and fiscal management, inter-agency coordination, hiring and training of staff, and communication of work incentives information to caseworkers and consumers.