In case you missed it yesterday, the Wall Street Journal featured a powerful article on the terrible toll that is resulting from the failure of 25 states (including North Carolina) to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The article – “Millions trapped in health-law coverage gap” tells the story of low-income workers like Ernest Maiden of Birmingham, Alabama who make too much to qualify for their own state’s Scrooge-like Medicaid programs, but not enough to qualify for federal subsidies under the ACA. (There are as many as 500,000 Ernest Maiden’s in North Carolina):
“Ernest Maiden was dumbfounded to learn that he falls through the cracks of the health-care law because in a typical week he earns about $200 from the Happiness and Hair Beauty and Barber Salon.
Like millions of other Americans caught in a mismatch of state and federal rules, the 57-year-old hair stylist doesn’t make enough money to qualify for federal subsidies to buy health insurance. If he earned another $1,300 a year, the government would pay the full cost. Instead, coverage would cost about what he earns.
‘It’s a Catch-22,’ said Mr. Maiden, an uninsured diabetic. Without help, he said, he must ‘choose between paying the bills and buying medicine.’
The 2010 health law was meant to cover people in Mr. Maiden’s income bracket by expanding Medicaid to workers earning up to the federal poverty line—about $11,670 for a single person; more for families. People earning as much as four times the poverty line—$46,680 for a single person—can receive federal subsidies.
But the Supreme Court in 2012 struck down the law’s requirement that states expand their Medicaid coverage. Republican elected officials in 24 states, including Alabama, declined the expansion, triggering a coverage gap. Officials said an expansion would add burdensome costs and, in some cases, leave more people dependent on government.
The decision created a gap for Mr. Maiden and others at the lowest income levels who don’t qualify for Medicaid coverage under varying state rules. The upshot is that lower-income people in half the states get no help, while better-off workers elsewhere can buy insurance with taxpayer-funded subsidies.”
Read the rest of the WSJ article by clicking here.