Statement from HHS Secretary Sebelius on International Day of Persons with Disabilities

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Saturday, December 3, 2011 is the 19th Annual International Day of Persons with Disabilities, a day to highlight efforts to improve the conditions of persons with disabilities. Across the globe, 15 percent of the world’s population is living with a disability and about a quarter of the global population has a family member with, or works with, someone with a disability.

When the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990, America became the first country in the world to declare equality for citizens with disabilities. President Obama has continued our country’s leadership in improving the lives of people with disabilities. The Obama Administration has joined in signing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, promoting equality while seeking to ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy the same rights and opportunities as all people.

Under President Obama the employment, retention and advancement of persons with disabilities within the federal workforce has been a priority of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  Thanks to President Obama’s Executive Order 13548 and HHS’ Disability Hiring Initiative, announced in December 2009, I’m pleased to announce that for the first time in a number of years, we can report that over one percent of the permanent HHS workforce is comprised of employees with significant disabilities.

At the same time, due to passage of the Affordable Care Act, there are many new protections for those with disabilities and those within the disability community. Job-based and new individual plans are no longer allowed to deny or exclude coverage to any child under age 19 based on a pre-existing condition, which includes living with a disability. Starting in 2014, these same plans won’t be able to exclude adults from coverage or charge a higher premium for a pre-existing condition including a disability. Furthermore, insurance companies can no longer take away coverage when a person gets sick due to a mistake on their coverage application.

While we are pleased to announce HHS’ progress including more people with disabilities in our workforce as well as additional health insurance protections for persons with disabilities due to the Affordable Care Act, we know we have a lot more work to do. We will continue to work with the disability community and commit to efforts that enhance the lives of persons with disabilities.

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