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Good News and Really Bad News About the New Health Care Law

June 3, 2013
Plain English Version

Callie Richmond/Texas Tribune

Health insurance for everyone is coming in 2014… or is it? The new law is the Affordable Health Care Act or “Obamacare” as many call it. It requires that everyone in the U.S. who does not have health insurance must purchase it or pay a penalty. The law is meant to get millions of mostly healthy young people to buy insurance.

A big part of the program helps low-income people (and families) with incomes in the poverty level range ($11,490 to $45,960 for an individual). Funds from the federal government will help these families buy the health insurance.

In reviewing the Health Care Law, the U.S. Supreme Court said the states could decide whether or not they wanted to expand Medicaid. Here is where a problem occurs.

In about half the states, people with incomes below the poverty level will be eligible to access health care services through Medicaid.

However, about half the states chose not to expand their Medicaid programs. States run by conservative Republicans turned down the federal plan to pay for 95 percent of new Medicaid costs. They did not trust the federal government to continue payments. They also did not want more federal interference in their state’s affairs.

In states such as Texas, Florida, Kansas, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Georgia, about 5.7 million very low-income people may well be left without any health care coverage at all. They fall into the crack of being too poor to qualify for the federal aid.

A health care advocate in Texas said, “A lot of people will come in, file applications and find they are not eligible for help because they are too poor. We will have to tell them, ‘If only you had a little more money, you could get insurance subsidies, but because you are so poor, you cannot get anything.’”

The result? Very low-income people will use emergency rooms; use the little money they have to pay doctors; or go without health care.

When Medicaid became law in the 1960’s, some states did not join the program. All of them finally did. Observers say they hope that will happen again for the new federally-supported Medicaid health program.

The very low-income join millions of undocumented residents who are not covered by the new “universal” health care program.

Source: The New York Times

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