A game-changer for Texans with disabilities

Photo by Samantha Mesones

We’re one step closer to a day when all Texans will have the opportunity to contribute to their own economic independence and the prosperity of our great state.

The Texas Legislature this week overwhelmingly approved Senate Bill 1664, known as the Texas ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) Act. The legislation, authored by state Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, and sponsored by state Rep. Cindy Burkett, R-Sunnyvale, creates a way for Texans with disabilities to save private funds for their own disability-related expenses without losing Medicaid eligibility. The bill now heads to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.

Today, many Texans live in fear of saving more than $2,000. Like many other states, Texas has an asset cap for Medicaid eligibility. To maintain necessary Medicaid services and supports, many Texans are limited to $2,000 in assets, including retirement accounts, cash savings and investments.

Because many adults and children with disabilities rely on Medicaid for both acute care services, such as doctor and hospital visits, and long-term services to help with personal care, this well-intentioned asset cap can create heartbreaking situations for Texas families:

  • After a young mother experiences a catastrophic car accident, her husband divorces her to ensure his income will not be counted against her eligibility for life-sustaining Medicaid services. 
  • A man with significant disabilities inherits a few thousand dollars upon his grandmother’s death. Because he receives services through a Medicaid-funded group home, this small inheritance may cause him to lose health care, long-term services and housing.

The ABLE Act helps families avoid these situations by allowing a person with significant disabilities to open a tax-advantaged savings account for disability-related expenses. The owner of the account and family and friends may gradually contribute funds for use on qualifying, disability-related expenses. ABLE accounts are similar to 529 plans, which many families use to save for college. 

Far from an expansion of publicly funded services, the ABLE program allows people with disabilities to exercise independence by setting aside private funds for assistive technology, personal support, necessary modifications to homes or vehicles for accessibility, and unexpected health care expenses.

The ABLE Act stands to make a life-changing impact on Texans with disabilities and their families.

Erin Lawler

Associate director of the Texas Council of Community Centers