Friday, September 4, 2015

Obamacare Can't Help the Poorest Pennsylvanians but Governor Corbett Can

Wondering if you will qualify for help to afford coverage through the health insurance marketplace, the signature achievement of the Affordable Care Act? You may be too poor to qualify for premium tax credits!

Obamacare Can’t Help the Poorest Pennsylvanians but Governor Corbett Can

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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett is kicking off a multi-day, cross-state event tour today to raise his profile with a year to go until election day. (AP file photo)
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett is kicking off a multi-day, cross-state event tour today to raise his profile with a year to go until election day. (AP file photo)

Wondering if you will qualify for help to afford coverage through the health insurance marketplace, the signature achievement of the Affordable Care Act? You may be too poor to qualify for premium tax credits!

You read that right. If your income next year is under the poverty line—$11,490 annually for a single person—you are too poor to qualify for marketplace subsidies. There is no provision in the law to provide health insurance subsidies for anyone below the poverty line.  Medicaid was supposed to be your fallback option.

Adults without children and without disabilities don’t qualify for Medicaid at any income. Because they don’t fit into a coverage category, it doesn’t matter how poor they are. President Obama and Congress, with the Affordable Care Act of 2010, intended Medicaid to be the health coverage available to people below the poverty line.

Last year, however, the U.S. Supreme Court made expanding Medicaid a state option.  Nearly half the states in the union, including Pennsylvania, have turned down incredibly generous federal funds that would finance 100 percent of the expansion costs for three years and at least 90 percent thereafter rather than offering a helping hand to their most vulnerable residents.

An estimated 400,000 Pennsylvanians are uninsured and too poor to qualify for marketplace subsidies. To think this group simply needs to get a job is mistaken.  Three out of four uninsured adult Pennsylvanians are working. These are the people who cook and serve our food, clean our offices, cut our lawns, and care for our young children and our aging parents. They are doing the best they can in today’s high-unemployment, low-wage and deeply unequal economy.

Governor Corbett and Pennsylvania’s legislature should do the right thing and expand Medicaid. You shouldn’t be too poor to get help affording health insurance.


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The Field Clinic reports and analyzes health care laws, government policies, and political trends that are transforming the care we receive and the way we pay for it. Read more about our panel of bloggers here.

This blog is produced in partnership with Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health-policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente. Portions of this blog may also be found on Inquirer.com and in the Inquirer's Sunday Health Section.

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Robert I. Field, Ph.D., J.D., M.P.H. Professor, School of Law & Drexel School of Public Health
Jeffrey Brenner, MD Founder of the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers, Medical Director of the Urban Health Institute at Cooper University Healthcare
Andy Carter President & CEO, The Hospital & Healthsystem Assoc. of Pa.
Robert B. Doherty Senior Vice President of Governmental Affairs & Public Policy American College of Physicians
David Grande, MD, MPA Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania
Tine Hansen-Turton Chief Strategy Officer of Public Health Management Corporation
Drew A. Harris, DPM, MPH Director of Health Policy Program at the Jefferson College of Population Health
Antoinette Kraus Director of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network
Laval Miller-Wilson Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Health Law Project
David B. Nash, MD, MBA Founding Dean of the Jefferson College of Population Health
Mark V. Pauly, Ph.D. Professor of Health Care Management, Business Economics and Public Policy at The Wharton School
Howard J. Peterson, MHA Managing Partner of TRG Healthcare, a national healthcare consulting firm
Paula L. Stillman, MD, MBA Healthcare consultant with special expertise in population health and disease management
Elizabeth A. W. Williams Senior Vice President & Chief Communications Officer for Independence Blue Cross
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