Shelly: Securing Much-needed Medicaid Coverage

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Tags: Client Stories
Photograph of Shelly Stephens smiling at the camera

Shelly Stephens is a disability advocate who has quadriplegia. Because she was earning income, the NC Department of Health and Human Services refused to allow her to have Medicaid coverage. As a result, Shelly was spending nearly all of her income on personal care services and was struggling to maintain her independence.

Shelly was one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit Disability Rights NC filed against NC DHHS for failing to make Medicaid available to many workers with disabilities. The Health Coverage for Workers with Disabilities Act allows people with disabilities to work and maintain Medicaid coverage, and it requires DHHS to make that coverage available. But beginning in 2009, NC DHHS suspended implementation of the law and failed to make Medicaid available to workers with disabilities whose incomes exceed 150% of federal poverty.

As a result of our lawsuit, a Superior Court judge ordered DHHS to comply with the law. Now, an individual with a disability is eligible for Medicaid if he or she is between the ages of 16 and 64, is working, and has non-wage income of less than $1437 per month. There is no cap on earned wages.

“Having access to this program will make it possible for me to maintain my independence, and will help so many others who want to work but need to know that their medical needs will be met.” Shelly said.