Monday, Nov. 1

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Governor launches outreach campaign
for Health Benefits for Workers with Disabilities program    
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People with disabilities can be employed without fear of losing health benefits

[NOV. 1, 2004]  SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Rod Blagojevich launched a major outreach campaign Oct. 19 to raise awareness of a state program that enables people with disabilities to enter the work force without losing their health benefits.

Using a special allocation of federal funds designated for outreach efforts, the state's Health Benefits for Workers with Disabilities program is airing radio ads throughout the state and hosting a series of seminars for employers to familiarize them with the program.

"We know a lot of people with disabilities in the state are eager to get into the work force," said Gov. Blagojevich. "But in many cases, they're held back by the fear that an increase in income will lead to loss of health benefits. This program eliminates that fear, and that's why we are working so hard to get the word out about it."

The ad campaign features three different 60-second radio spots that highlight the success stories of four people who have been able to enter the work force thanks to the benefits program. The $275,000 radio campaign is funded through a federal grant designated for outreach purposes. Ads will be running on stations in Chicago and throughout the state during the campaign, which runs through Nov. 26.

"Meet Anna, a single woman with severe diabetes," says one of the ads. "Anna couldn't work part time because no employer would provide health insurance. And she had to keep her income low enough for Medicaid. But now there is a solution for Anna, a program called Health Benefits for Workers with Disabilities. Anna can now enroll in the HBWD program and get full health care benefits, even when working part time."

The almost three-year-old program is administered by the Illinois Department of Public Aid and funded with state and federal Medicaid monies. It is available to people whose income is less than 200 percent of poverty ($1,552 per month for a single person) as long as their assets, not counting their home, are less than $10,000. Participants pay a small monthly premium. About 600 people are currently enrolled.

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"Our goal is to significantly grow the HBWD program," said Illinois Department of Public Aid Director Barry Maram. "We want to empower our friends and neighbors with disabilities by removing loss of health insurance as a barrier to employment and giving them the opportunity to take control of their lives and attain independence."

In addition to the ad campaign, program staffers are teaming up with United Cerebral Palsy of Illinois to host a series of seminars for employers. A seminar in Rockford was on Oct. 28, another is scheduled in Lisle on Nov. 4, and a Chicago seminar is planned for December.

Employers who are interested in learning more about employer benefits and incentives for including people with disabilities in their work force should contact United Cerebral Palsy of Illinois at (877) 550-8274 or by e-mail to ucpil@sbcglobal.net to register for the free seminar.

For more information about the program, call 1 (800) 226-0768 or visit www.hbwdillinois.com.

[News release from the governor's office]

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