“Sorry, you are poor, but not poor enough”
Imagine a social service agency telling you, “Sorry, you are poor, but not poor enough for health care coverage.” For Sandra Pico from Florida, that is reality. Sandra works full time, making $15,000 a year, to cover expenses for her husband and daughter. Even though she is well below the poverty line—she is simply not poor enough. According to Fox News,
In South Carolina, a yearly income of $16,900 is too much for Medicaid for a family of three. In Florida, $11,000 a year is too much. In Mississippi, $8,200 a year is too much. In Louisiana and Texas, earning more than just $5,000 a year makes you ineligible for Medicaid.
Obamacare will alleviate the worries of many families across the nation with the expansion of Medicaid to those with annual incomes of 133 percent of poverty, or about $25,400 in annual income for a family of three. But with the Supreme Court ruling that states can decide whether or not they expand Medicaid, several governors have pledged that they will not. In addition, 14 to 27 million people who already have coverage could stand lose it under Paul Ryan’s plan—a plan that deprives states of billions of dollars in funding.
State Medicaid programs have been a mainstay for working and middle-class families—providing critically important health insurance for kids, seniors in nursing homes, and people with disabilities. While Sandra Pico’s daughter is covered under Medicaid, Sandra and her husband cannot afford health insurance on their $15,000 fixed annual income, so they go without. While they may have seen relief thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Florida Governor Rick Scott opposes the expansion of Medicaid, meaning that the Pico family will continue to be unable to afford care, but not poor enough to qualify for help. For Sandra, this just affirms that when it comes to health insurance, “if you’re not rich, you just don’t have it.”
Is this the reality we want families to face as they struggle to make ends meet? It’s because of stories like the Pico family’s, and millions more like them, that we advocate that all states expand Medicaid. As we’ve said on this blog, the expansion is a win-win for states. Not only will the federal government foot the bill for the first three years, but states will reap savings when thousands of their workers gain affordable health coverage. For the sake of the millions of working families out there that can’t afford coverage, but aren’t eligible for help, we can’t stand for Republican leaders telling us they aren’t worth it.