Millions Fall Through Medicaid-Obamacare Coverage Gap

Monday, 10 Feb 2014 06:21 AM

By Elliot Jager

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Millions of Americans who live in states that have not expanded Medicaid coverage in conjunction with the Affordable Health Care Act earn too little to purchase federally subsidized private insurance, yet don't qualify for state Medicaid coverage, The Wall Street Journal reported.

People such as Ernest Maiden, 57, of Birmingham, Ala., are caught in a coverage gap. Maiden earns about $200 a week working in a beauty salon. He does not earn enough to meet the criteria for federal subsidies and does not qualify for Medicaid coverage. If Maiden earned another $1,300 annually, he would qualify for federal subsidies.

About 30,000 people in the Birmingham area, like Maiden, would qualify for Medicaid if coverage were expanded.

Obamacare was supposed to cover working poor people like Maiden by expanding Medicaid. But Alabama, along with 23 other Republican-led states, begged off Medicaid expansion. The Supreme Court struck down the law's requirement that states had to expand their Medicaid coverage.

This leaves people who earn too little to qualify for federal help buying coverage and too much to qualify under Alabama's Medicaid program without medical insurance.

Officials in states that have not expanded Medicaid, including Alabama, say doing so would be prohibitively expensive and would make people more dependent on government.

Some GOP-led states, including New Hampshire and Utah, are trying to address the coverage gap — which has also affected hospitals that are no longer being reimbursed for their treatment of uninsured people.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said he and state legislators are working on a plan to expand Medicaid to deal with about 60,000 poor residents who don't have access to health care.

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