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Helping Disabled Go To Work

 President Clinton signs a measure Monday that should help many of America's disabled keep their jobs - and their government health benefits.

The $800 million measure will allow disabled men and women to hang onto federal Medicare coverage, and states will be encouraged to let the disabled stay in Medicaid.

Speaking from the White House lawn early Friday, spokesman Joe Lockhart talked about the measure with The Early Show:

"Unfortunately, Americans with disabilities were in sort of a Catch-22," Lockhart said."They desperately need the care provided by the Medicare and Medicaid programs, but if they worked, they would lose those programs. So it provided a big disincentive."

Few of America's nine million disabled have jobs. Their advocates say that's because the existing system punishes them when they go to work.

"Americans with disabilities are unemployed at a rate of about 75 percent," Lockhart said. "These are people who have important things to contribute to our economy, to our country. When the president signs this legislation, it will take that impediment away. It will allow them to keep their health care and go to work. This is an important day for Americans with disabilities and the country."

The Workplace Incentives Improvement Act being signed into law Monday is aimed at changing the equation.

Its Senate co-sponsors are Sen. James Jeffords, R-Vt., and Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. Aides say Mr. Clinton plans to hail the measure as a model of bipartisanship.
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