A central component of Democratic efforts to expand health coverage for uninsured Americans is to extend Medicaid eligibility to poor adults without children, a group of people who have never before had access to the joint federal-state health program.
Since its creation in the 1960s, Medicaid has been largely limited to the elderly, disabled, pregnant women and poor children. But with childless adults comprising the majority of uninsured people, some states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey have tried to expanded access to public health programs to fill the gap.
Now, President Obama's proposal and the Senate health bill would extend Medicaid eligibility to everyone with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level - $14,404 for a single person.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the expansion of Medicaid would extend health coverage to about 15 million people. It would, however, come with a substantial price tag. The CBO estimated cost: $374 billion over ten years. Alternatively, it would cost an estimated $425 billion to extend Medicaid eligibility to 150 percent of the federal poverty level, as the House health bill does.