Justice For All



(Washington, DC, June 20, 2000) On the occasion of today's meeting with Senators Kennedy and Wellstone on a bill that would make it more difficult for financially strapped American families to declare bankruptcy, the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), a national non-partisan, non-profit membership association of children and adults with disabilities, their family members and supporters, today called on Congress to work across party lines to make sure that people with disabilities and their family members are not punished for their inability to get adequate health care coverage.

"ADA has been on the books for almost 10 years," noted AAPD President Andrew J. Imparato. "It is time for Congress and the Administration to recognize that our health care system fails people with disabilities and their family members on a regular basis," Imparato added. "Instead of making it more difficult for these working families to declare bankruptcy in the face of astronomic medical bills and flimsy health coverage, it is time for the Congress and the Administration to work together to plug the gaping holes in our country's second class health care system."

AAPD is using the occasion of the 10th anniversary of ADA this July and the 25th anniversary of a companion civil rights law for children and youth, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), to call on elected officials, candidates for office, and private individuals to renew their pledge to an America that works for everyone. Part of renewing the pledge is fixing what is wrong with our health care system.

"The pledge campaign, which we have called the Spirit of ADA campaign' and have linked to a 24-city torch relay that is traveling across the country this summer," said Imparato, "is AAPD's effort to focus America's attention on the roll that everyone must play if ADA's goals of equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency are to become a reality for all Americans with disabilities. Put simply, for the millions of Americans who have inadequate or no health care coverage, a disability often spells financial disaster. That's not right, and it is not consistent with the goals of ADA and IDEA."

During 1999, nearly 600,000 households filed for bankruptcy in the aftermath of a serious accident or illness, representing almost half of the total number of households that filed for bankruptcy that year. For 85 percent of these households facing accidents or illness, the financial problem was not simply the medical bills they faced but also the lost time from work because of medical problems. Some have suffered accidents and illnesses that left them unable to return to jobs at their previous pay levels. Many may never return to work. For these households, inadequate private and public disability insurance leaves them financially destitute.

In addition, the illnesses and accidents that result in lost incomes are not always those of the primary earner. In many cases it is a serious medical problem for a child, an elderly parent, or a sibling that sends the family into financial freefall. The bankruptcy files are full of people who lost time from work or quit their jobs entirely in order to care for a family member with serious health problems.

Imparato added, "Why is it that in the richest country in the world in a time of economic prosperity, instead of creating a comprehensive and effective home and community-based long-term care system, the Congress is proposing to take away a lifeline for the families that fall victim to the failure of our long-term care policies?"

The American Association of People with Disabilities was founded in 1995 by a  group of cross-disability leaders to represent, educate and unify interests of the entire diverse disability community, family and friends as a membership organization. The goals of the organization are to promote the economic and political empowerment of all people with disabilities, educate business and the general public about disability concerns, and provide benefits such as insurance and discounts on goods and services to its members.

For more information on AAPD, visit www.aapd-dc.org . 

For more info contact:
Andrew J. Imparato
President and CEO
(202) 457-0046
(443) 386-2935(cell)

Fred Fay
Chair, Justice For All