The Affordable Care Act’s expansion of the Medicaid program would provide states with federal funds to help insure millions of Americans who currently can’t afford coverage, especially the low-income Americans whose annual earnings are slightly above the cut-off to qualify for Medicaid in their state. Despite the significant financial benefits for the states that choose to accept the Medicare expansion, Republican governors across the country are choosing to reject the federal funds — leaving some states with impossibly low Medicaid thresholds that remain far below the current poverty line.
Under the current program, states have varying income requirements for Medicaid eligibility. Thirty three states currently limit coverage to income levels below the federal poverty line, and 17 of those states will only cover families who are bringing in less than half of the income at the federal poverty level. In five states — Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, and Texas — a family of three with an annual income over $5,000 makes too much money to receive any Medicaid assistance. ThinkProgress examined the national disparities:
Obamacare establishes a new eligibility level for Medicaid above the current poverty line of $18,530 for a working family of three. Effective in 2014, the expansion will allow families who make up to $26,344 to be eligible for coverage under the program. That would make a huge difference for low-income working families in states like Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, and Louisiana who are not currently considered poor enough to qualify despite the fact that they are living in poverty by federal standards. However, those states’ Republican governors are choosing to deny their state’s low-income residents health care coverage.
If governors reject the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, the families whose income falls between the federal poverty line and the new $26,344 income level may receive subsidies to help them participate in the health insurance exchanges that will be set up in 2014. But the estimated 11 million families who fall under the poverty line but above their state’s Medicaid eligibility line will be left in the cold, unable to receive either Medicaid benefits or subsidies.
GOP governors may be relying on Gov. Rick Perry’s (R-TX) strategy and simply pretending that their uninsured state residents don’t exist. However, if some families who scrape by on just $5,000 a year remain ineligible for Medicaid because their governors reject Obamacare, the reality is worth considering.