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Dakota Center for Independent Living

ABLE Act Passed the Senate, but with Limited Scope

The ABLE Act passed the Senate on December 16. The bill passed the Senate as part of a bigger tax package. It passed 76 to 16. The ABLE Act had many things going for it, but the Congress members’ personal stories definitely helped this bill to pass.

The ABLE Act aims at removing bureaucratic obstacles to help Americans save their own money to help pay for long-term care. Some activists see this as a template for reforming Medicare and Social Security in the next Congress.

Activists worked hard to design this bill. They worked to craft an approach that could win on both sides of the aisle. The bill appeals to Democrats because it protects benefits and entitlement programs for people with disabilities. It appeals to Republicans because this is a private sector solution to a public sector problem.

When the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the original bill would cost $20 billion over 10 years, activists realized there was no way it would pass. Reluctantly, stakeholders dialed the scope of the bill back. They agreed to limit eligibility to those who acquired their disability before the age of 26, set a $14,000 per year cap on contributions, and limited accounts to one per person. The Congressional Budget Office then estimated the bill would cost $2 billion over 10 years.

While this bill won’t help as many people as it would have initially, it is a great starting point.