By Michelle Fay Cortez
MINNEAPOLIS — About 5.2 million Americans will be left without health coverage after 26 states decided to reject expanded Medicaid insurance programs for the poor with money provided under President Obama's health care reform.
Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina will be particularly hard hit as those southern states will fail to provide coverage to at least one-third of uninsured adults, according to a report from the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured. In Texas, more than 1 million people won't have access to insurance provided through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, while 763,890 Floridians won't receive health coverage.
Expansion of Medicaid eligibility was intended to provide health insurance for the working poor, those with incomes just higher than the poverty line who would struggle to pay premiums. While the Supreme Court last year upheld the law, it also allowed states not to expand Medicaid.
"In states that expand their Medicaid programs, millions of adults will gain Medicaid coverage under the law," according to the report issued Thursday by the commission affiliated with the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health research nonprofit in Menlo Park, Calif. "However, with many states opting not to implement the Medicaid expansion, millions of adults will remain outside the reach of the ACA and continue to have limited, if any, option for health coverage."
The issue has created a coverage gap. The law was designed to expand Medicaid for those making as much as 138 percent of the poverty line. Only about 30 percent of poor adults now qualify for the joint federal-state program. Low-income workers who earn more than 138 percent of poverty are eligible for tax credits to help pay for insurance through the health exchanges created under the law.
The federal government will pay all the costs for states that expand Medicaid through 2016 and 90 percent of the extra expense to 2020.