Millions of Americans who have been waiting to apply for healthcare insurance under the new Obamacare program were shocked this week when they applied for benefits through the new health insurance exchanges and were denied. These are the same people that the new healthcare reform is supposed to help. But for more than half of low-wage workers and two-thirds of the poor blacks and single mothers, it’s just not working. Why?
The problem with Medicaid
Lower- and middle-income individuals and families are eligible for federal subsidies on the new health exchanges that will help them pay for their insurance. An expanded Medicaid program was intended to cover the very poor. The problem is that 26 out of 50 states declined to expand their Medicaid program. Most of these states are in the South, which is also where there is a large share of poor blacks. Now they are caught between not having enough income to be eligible for subsidies, and having too much income to qualify for Medicaid.
Medicaid expansion makes a difference
The difference that Medicaid expansion makes can be seen in this example. Without Medicaid expansion. the median income limit for Medicaid for adults with children is $5,600 a year, just under half of the federal poverty level. In states where Medicaid is expanding, the limit raises to about $12,200, which also raises the possibility of more people being qualified for Medicaid benefits.
Even though the federal government has said it will pay 90 percent of the costs for expansion, these states cannot afford to pay the ten percent share of the cost. Now 8 million Americans are left without any insurance and no where to turn for help. It is no consolation that they will not be penalized for not having health insurance because they were rejected. That’s not the point. They need health insurance.
Impact on poor blacks
Whether the politicians admit it or not, the impact is disastrous for poor blacks. Most of the 26 states that declined to expand Medicare are home to about 60 percent of the country’s uninsured working poor, and 68 percent of poor, uninsured blacks and single mothers. What began as a plan to insure all Americans has created another exclusion of America’s poor. What will the government do now?