WASHINGTON -- Although the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has helped increase awareness of barriers faced by people with disabilities, and advances in science and engineering have led to better assistive technologies that make it easier for individuals to lead productive, independent lives, outdated regulations too often impede access to health care coverage and assistive devices for many who need them, says a new report by the Institute of Medicine.
The report calls on Congress and appropriate federal agencies to improve decision making about what and who Medicare and Medicaid will cover and to eliminate waiting periods for qualified individuals to receive Medicare coverage. The federal government should find ways to ease restrictions that prevent people from getting effective assistive services and technologies to help them live as independently as possible and participate in work and other activities outside the home.
"The number of Americans who have disabilities will grow significantly in the next 30 years as the baby boom generation enters late life. If one considers people who now are disabled, those likely to develop a future disability, and people who are or will be affected by the disabilities of family members or others close to them, it becomes clear that disability will eventually affect the lives of most Americans," said Alan M. Jette, director, Health and Disability Research Institute, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, and chair of the committee that wrote the report. "Increasingly, scientific evidence reveals that disability results, in large part, from actions society and individuals take. The sobering reality, however, is that over the past two decades, far too little progress has been made in adopting major public policy and practice advances to reduce disability in America."