The Affordable Care Act was supposed to help the poor and uninsured gain insurance coverage. Unfortunately, how Obamacare affects the poor in America is a surprising and underreported problem.
In order to qualify to purchase insurance through Obamacare’s online exchanges, a person must have a yearly income of more than 138% of the federal poverty line. Anyone below that line is expected to be covered by Medicaid, which was expanded under the Affordable Care Act. However, the Supreme Court famously ruled that states could not be required to expand Medicaid; as a result, barely half of the 50 states have decided to expand Medicaid.
This means that impoverished Americans in nearly 24 states could be left without medical coverage.
Kaiser Health News (KHN) reports that many local programs that were intended to help the poor receive medical treatment are being taken away. KHN notes that popular support for funding these programs is waning in many fiscally conservative areas. For example, when taken to the polls, one program in a Florida county received an increase in funding by less than 100 votes. Many programs are also considering shutting down in order to move most of their enrollees into the Obamacare exchanges.
It doesn’t make sense to offer a product that the federal government is also offering, reasoned one program director who was interviewed by KHN.
Although residents’ concerns over increased taxes are certainly well-founded, uninsured programs are essential to the poor. Basic services that many insured people take for granted, such as dental and eye exams, are nearly impossible to pay for if a person is below the federal poverty line. And now that many uninsured programs will be shutting down come January 1st, the poor don’t know where they will get coverage from.
Lost in all the debate and hubbub over Obamacare are the difficulties faced by Americans who make less than $11,500 a year. Obamacare affects the poor, but not in the way you might think.