People With Disabilities Will Cut Medical Treatment Costs If Social Security Checks Don’t Arrive, Finds Allsup Poll

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Report: 84 percent of SSDI beneficiaries rely on Social Security benefits for all or nearly all income, meaning devastating effects if monthly payments suspended due to debt ceiling stalemate

This is a very real issue for millions of people, and it gets down to whether they can put food on the table or take the prescription medications they need for their health conditions -Tricia Blazier, senior disability life planning specialist for Allsup

When asked how they would cope if the current debt ceiling stalemate leads to a suspension of Social Security benefits in August, Americans with disabilities said they would most likely not be able to pay their medical expenses, according to Allsup, a nationwide provider of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) representation and Medicare plan selection services.

In addition, 84 percent of respondents to the Allsup Flash Opinion Poll: The Debt Ceiling & SSDI said they rely on Social Security benefits for at least one-half of their monthly income, with nearly 4 in 10 (38 percent) reporting Social Security is their sole source of monthly income.

More than 10 million people with disabilities and their dependents who rely on SSDI could be affected if lawmakers cannot come to agreement over the debt ceiling and Social Security benefits are suspended by the U.S. Treasury Department.

“This is a very real issue for millions of people, and it gets down to whether they can put food on the table or take the prescription medications they need for their health conditions,” said Tricia Blazier, senior disability life planning specialist for Allsup.

For people who are single—the effects are worse: 67 percent of people who are single or divorced with dependents rely on Social Security for all their income, while the same is true for 61 percent of single/divorced people without dependents.

“If people with severe physical and mental health problems can’t pay for out of pocket healthcare expenses, this means they won’t keep medical appointments because they can’t afford to pay the doctor. In addition, they probably won’t fill their prescriptions, or they will cut back on the prescribed dosages,” Blazier said. “These strategies put their health at greater risk and may end up costing far more down the line if their conditions aren’t managed.”

While many people associate seniors with Social Security, more than 8.2 million people with disabilities and nearly 2 million of their dependents—primarily children—rely on SSDI.

Social Security Disability Insurance is a payroll tax-funded, federal insurance program. A portion of FICA taxes that employees pay is set aside for SSDI benefits, designed to provide income for workers who suffer a severe disability and cannot work 12 months or longer. It can take two years or longer to be awarded SSDI benefits, which averaged $1,069.50 a month in June 2011.

Coping With Suspended Social Security Benefits
The top three expenses people with disabilities are least likely to pay if Social Security benefits are suspended in August include: medical care (53 percent), prescription drugs (50 percent) and credit card bills (48 percent).

The likelihood to be able to pay for medical costs was particularly acute for certain groups of individuals. Among respondents relying entirely on Social Security for their income, 60 percent said they would be least likely to be able to pay for medical care and 59 percent said they’d be least likely to pay for prescription drugs.

Additionally, among people receiving SSDI benefits for less than two years, 54 percent say they are least likely to pay for prescription drug costs if they do not receive Social Security benefits in August and 53 percent are least likely to pay for medical care. This is significant because individuals don’t become eligible for Medicare until two years after the Social Security Administration determines them to be disabled and awards cash SSDI benefits.

At the same time, poll respondents were greatly concerned about meeting virtually every basic living expense, most notably shelter and food. When asked what expenses they were most concerned about paying, 80 percent said housing expenses, with about three-fourths citing utilities (79 percent), food bills (78 percent), prescription drugs (77 percent) and medical care (73 percent).

The poll results also illustrate the challenge of ongoing debt for people with disabilities. Putting off payments simply adds to future financial hardships, Blazier said. “Respondents told us they are concerned about paying their mortgage and other daily expenses. With limited income, many people miss payments, falling further into a cycle of rising debt from added fees, penalties and interest.”

Find more details online in the Allsup Flash Opinion Poll: The Debt Ceiling & SSDI.

Methodology
The Allsup Flash Opinion Poll: The Debt Ceiling & SSDI was based on responses from 378 individuals to an online poll. It was sent to individuals who had been awarded their SSDI benefits during the past three years, with Allsup as their third-party representative. The poll was conducted online between July 15 and July 18, 2011.

Anyone with questions about eligibility for Social Security benefits can contact the Allsup Disability Evaluation Center at (800) 678-3276 for a free disability evaluation.

ABOUT ALLSUP
Allsup is a nationwide provider of Social Security disability, Medicare and Medicare Secondary Payer compliance services for individuals, employers and insurance carriers. Founded in 1984, Allsup employs nearly 800 professionals who deliver specialized services supporting people with disabilities and seniors so they may lead lives that are as financially secure and as healthy as possible. The company is based in Belleville, Ill., near St. Louis. For more information, visit http://www.Allsup.com.

The information provided is not intended as a substitute for legal or other professional services. Legal or other expert assistance should be sought before making any decision that may affect your situation.

Editor’s Note: Details on the Allsup Flash Opinion Poll: the Debt Ceiling & SSDI are available at http://www.allsup.com/Portals/4/allsup-flash-poll-debt-SSDIstudy-07-11.pdf.

Contact:
Mary Jung            
(773) 429-0940    
mtjung@msn.com

Rebecca Ray
(800) 854-1418 ext 65065
r.ray@allsupinc.com

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Mary Jung
Allsup
(773) 429-0940
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Rebecca Ray
Allsup
(800) 854-1418 65065
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