April 30, 2007

In light of the expanding elderly population in the United States, a better system is needed to provide care for the disabled, according to a recent report from the Institute of Medicine, AP/Long Island Newsday reports.

The report estimates more than 40 million US residents are disabled in some way. Aging Baby Boomers are likely to increase the country’s disabled population. The report also predicts that younger generations will contribute to the disabled population because of declines in physical activity and increases in obesity and diabetes.

The report made recommends to Congress and federal agencies for the following:

Increase funding for research into clinical health services and disability problems, including social and behavioral; strengthen the Americans with Disabilities Act to ensure accessibility at health care facilities for the disabled; eliminate the two-year waiting period for Medicare eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance beneficiaries; modify the "in-home-use" requirement for Medicare coverage of durable medical equipment to allow reimbursement for equipment that can be used both inside and outside the home; increase educational programs for health professionals that care for the disabled; and develop a system through the National Center for Health Statistics, Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics to monitor the number and types of disabled US residents.

The study concludes that action "taken sooner rather than later" is "essential for the nation to avoid a future of harm and inequity and, instead, to improve the lives of people with disabilities." Alan Jette, chair of the committee that prepared the report and director of the Health and Disability Research Institute at the Boston University School of Public Health, said.

"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" U.S. residents, Jette added.

Furthermore Jette indicated that in the last 20 years too little progress has been made in adopting major public policy and practice advances to reduce disability in America (Schmid, AP/Long Island Newsday, 4/24).

An abstract of the study is available online.

Source: Newswise