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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Congress Should Vote to Make Permanent Two Federal Programs Benefitting Low-Income Families and Individuals

Shannon Attanasio

Senior Director of Government Affairs

Unless Congress acts quickly, funding for two federal health programs that are critical to low-income families will expire on March 31. Both the Qualified Individual (QI) program and the Transitional Medical Assistance (TMA) program are integral to providing health care to families transitioning from welfare to work and to helping low-income seniors pay their Medicare monthly premiums. Making both programs permanent is the best way to ensure that these small but important programs continue to meet the needs of the individuals who rely on them.

Two Federal Programs Provide Financial Assistance to Low-Income Families and Individuals  

  1. Nearly a half million seniors rely on the Qualified Individual (QI) program to help pay their Medicare monthly premiums and out-of-pocket costs. Without QI, many seniors would face more than $100 per month in additional health care premiums. QI serves people with incomes between 120 and 135 percent of the federal poverty level ($13,788 to $15,512 per year for an individual). Without QI, these seniors would be required to pay the full Medicare Part B monthly premium of $104.90 a month, which can be challenging because half of Medicare beneficiaries have incomes below $22,500. Making the Qualified Individual program permanent will eliminate the uncertainly that beneficiaries face every year as the program approaches expiration.
  2. The Transitional Medical Assistance (TMA) program is a Medicaid program that provides up to one year of additional Medicaid health insurance benefits for certain low-income families that would otherwise lose coverage. This program provides health care coverage to more than 3.7 million people who have lost Medicaid eligibility because they have found a job or received a wage increase from their employer, yet cannot afford to purchase health insurance in the private market. This is especially important for people in states that have not expanded Medicaid because it reduces the number of people caught between Medicaid and private health insurance. Like the QI program, TMA should be made permanent to ensure that hard working families have access to health care as they work to lift themselves out of poverty.

How You Can Help Protect These Federal Programs 

Families USA encourages you to contact your members of Congress to request that they make permanent the funding for both the Qualified Individual and Transitional Medicaid Assistance programs. Traditionally, both QI and TMA have needed extensions each calendar year because they are not a permanent part of federal law. Therefore, each year, Congress has needed to pass legislation to temporarily continue these programs. Please ask Congress to make QI and TMA permanent in order to provide long-term security to low-income individuals who rely on these programs for health coverage. To reach your senators and representatives, call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

To see how much the Qualified Individual program matters to your state, see our 50-state infographic.