For People With Disabilities, AHCCCS Freedom to Work Opens the Door to Full-time Employment

John Beaubien works at deskLike all working professionals who balance the demands of a full-time job with the full-time job of parenting two young children, John Beaubien is busy. But he wouldn’t have it any other way.

At age 18, Beaubien learned he had a rare form of muscular dystrophy when he didn’t pass a military enlistment physical. His calf muscles weren’t strong enough to support him. “Back then I didn’t know anyone who had a disability, everyone around me was walking just fine and I just felt so alone and depressed for several years and I didn’t know what I was going to do for the rest of my life or what I could accomplish.”

John Beaubien at Ability360 officeAs the disease progressed in his body, and he came to terms with having a physical disability, he found Ability 360, a center for independent living resources in Phoenix, Arizona. Armed with information and surrounded by supportive people, Beaubien worked with Vocational Rehabilitation Services to help him find a job. With financial support through Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), he enrolled in college, earned a bachelor’s degree in graphic design, and landed what he describes as his “dream job”—working for Ability 360. “I realized that having a disability made me work harder to accomplish my goals,” he said.

“AHCCCS Freedom to Work has changed my life. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to work.”

Full-time employment—and being able to support his family without SSDI cash benefits—was always one of his goals. But many people with disabilities fear that additional income will preclude them from Medicaid and Medicare disability healthcare benefits, coverage that helps them live independent and self-directed lives. Through the AHCCCS Freedom to Work program, Beaubien was able to keep health care benefits while earning income.  Freedom to Work provides health care coverage for working Arizonans with disabilities who are not otherwise eligible for AHCCCS coverage as a result of their income. Members pay a monthly premium up to $35 per month, based upon their countable earned income. “The AHCCCS Freedom to Work program has changed my life. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to work,” he said. Today, Beaubien no longer receives SSDI cash benefits.

In time, Beaubien’s muscles will become gradually weaker and he will be even more dependent on the mobility tools like his power wheelchair and adapted vehicle. But by then he may be well into his retirement years, reflecting on a long career forged by his own determination, aided by the AHCCCS Freedom to Work program.

Learn more about the AHCCCS Freedom to Work program or use the Health-e-Arizona Plus website to apply.

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