States are looking to expand Medicaid

When Obamacare was rolled out a few years ago, it provided states the ability to enroll more of their residents into Medicaid. This was an optional component of the program which some states took advantage of and others did not. Now with the recent failure to overturn Obamacare, more local government are looking at providing increased access to Medicaid while they have a chance to do so.

As of this writing, there are 18 states that have not used the expanded Medicaid component of the ACA. Of that number there are at least 5 states that may very well be on the path to providing this benefit to more families at some point in 2017 or 2018. They include Maine, Virginia, North Carolina, Kansas, and Georgia. Others may join in as well. The process being followed for each of these varies, and ranges from voter referendums to bills being passed by their state representatives.

With the status of health insurance up in the air, and really no one knows what the end result will look like, some people think now is the time to provide increased access to health care for struggling families. They are trying to take advantage of this window of time to implement the Medicaid expansion program, before Obamacare is either repealed and/or changed in some significant way. Expanded Medicaid may very well not exist in so many months or years. So the thought process is that if a state does not take advantage of it now (while it still exists), then “tomorrow” may be too late.

So what is expanded Medicaid? It was increased eligibility for more lower income families. In fact this government health care benefit will now cover families with a total household income at or below 138 percent of government established poverty levels, which is $27,821 for a family of three as of late 2016. It was created as the result of Obamacare, and there are currently as many as 15 million people enrolled on it as we start calendar year 2017.

It operates the exact same way as “regular” Medicaid. The only thing the expansion did was increase the income thresholds, which in effect allowed more working poor families to enroll. So the program is still a form of health insurance that helps pay for some medical bills, treatments, and the needs of the sick. The federal government as well as each state split the costs of offering this benefit.

Now not every state offers this resource. While there are 18 states that do not offer it, 6 other states have created their own alternative to it. Of the reaming 12, as noted above as many as 5 are strongly considering rolling out Medicaid expansion. Or there is a big push for it from either their voters or state representatives to do so. A few others are now revisiting the program as well to see if they should pursue it.

Some state governments are trying to expand Medicaid enrollment to take advantage of the fact that the federal government pays as much as 50% of the costs of the health insurance program. That means they will be locked into some form of government aid, even if the patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) is eventually replaced in 2017. The fear is that if the 18 states do not roll this out for their population, that those states will have a smaller percentage of their population that will have access to medical care.

If you live in one of the states that has not expanded Medicaid, then contact your congress women or man, or call on a state official. The latest data is here.

Express your opinion one way or the other. If you are pro-Medicaid and want to see more people with health insurance, express this. Or if you are against Medicaid, for whatever reason (cost, budget impact, etc.) then be sure to let your representative know that as well.

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