ST. LOUIS, June 10 (UPI) -- Disabled people, seniors and the blind in Missouri will soon be able to save more money and qualify for Medicaid healthcare benefits under a new law signed Thursday by Gov. Jay Nixon.
Until now, individual Missourians could only have a maximum $1,000 in savings, or $2,000 for a married couple, in order to be eligible for financial assistance.
The bill Nixon signed would gradually raise that savings limit to $5,000 for an unmarried person and $10,000 for a married couple by 2020.
"These are folks that just want to be responsible and save for the future," Nixon said during a signing ceremony in St. Louis. "But a law written more than 40 years ago wouldn't let them be part of the American dream, which is having some assets."
The current asset limits are so low that recipients can't prepare for emergencies, according to Aimee Wehmeier, president and CEO of the disability advocacy nonprofit Paraquad.
"Essentially, we had to choose between saving money and accessing necessary disability-related supports and services," Wehmeier said in a statement. "In the past, being fiscally responsible and saving money meant losing Medicaid benefits, including healthcare, personal care services and reimbursements for durable medical equipment. Without these vital services, we would not be able to work or live independently."
The idea behind the bill, which passed with bipartisan support in the GOP-led legislature, is to allow people who receive healthcare through the state program to keep more in savings that could help pay for unexpected expenses.
A state estimate says that the new law will allow about 10,000 more people to qualify for Medicaid.
Nixon said the new law will help "thousands of Missourians live more independent lives."