Under the Dome

NC bill would allow special accounts for disabled people

A Senate bill filed Monday would allow families to set up savings accounts for people with disabilities that would not affect their eligibility for Medicaid and other public benefits.

Congress passed a law last year called the ABLE Act, for Achieving a Better Life Experience, which allows states to establish and operate programs.

Sen. Tamara Barringer, a Cary Republican sponsoring the bill, described the accounts as “flexible savings tools” similar to health savings accounts and Individual Retirement Accounts.

The bill has bipartisan support. The accounts “could really change the lives of thousands of families in our state,” said Sen. Jeff Jackson, a Charlotte Democrat.

Parents and others would be able to make contributions. The money would be used for a child’s future medical or dental care, transportation, education, or other needs.

Sen. Ralph Hise, a Spruce Pine Republican, said an insurance agent in his district said he wanted to set up an account for his daughter where the savings wouldn’t disqualify her for future benefits. The cost to the state for allowing the accounts would be minimal, he said.

Julia Adams-Scheurich, a lobbyist for The ARC of North Carolina, said adults with disabilities receive medical care through Medicaid, but often don’t have a way to pay for other needs, such as transportation or special wheelchairs.

Barringer said the legislation would help families plan for the future and pay for services that improve lives of people with disabilities.

“It allows families to build wrap-around services to best meet the needs of their family member,” she said.