This is one of the most common misconceptions about our health care system I run across: Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for the poor is “available to anyone who is poor enough.” In a recent public meeting this issue came up yet again and so it bears repeating that for many people in NC it doesn’t matter how poor you are, you can’t get Medicaid.
As the NC Medicaid website makes plain, not only do you have to be poor to get Medicaid, but you also have to fit into a particular category of people: “Medicaid serves low-income parents, children, seniors, and people with disabilities .”
So, a single adult (ages 18-64) or married couple without kids can be making $9,000 a year and they will not qualify for Medicaid in North Carolina. Or a single adult can be out of work, looking for a job, down to their last few dollars and they won’t qualify either.
Obamacare changes this starting January 1, 2014. On that date (provided NC expands its Medicaid program as required by federal law), finally qualification for Medicaid will be based strictly on one’s very low income. So if you are poor, or lost your job, or are sick and can’t work and your income is below $15,000 a year, you will qualify for Medicaid. Above that income level, individuals and families will get tax credits to help them buy coverage themselves on the private market.