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Thursday, August 23, 2012

What Advocates Need to Know about Medicaid

Megan Salzman

Staff Writer

This past June, the Supreme Court made the historic decision to uphold Obamacare. Although the decision declared the Affordable Care Act constitutional, the Supreme Court’s opinion made one change to the law: Under the ruling, the expansion of Medicaid was changed from a requirement for states to an option.

It’s critical that states choose to expand.  

It’s critical because Medicaid is a program that works.  It was just a few weeks ago that we were celebrating Medicaid’s 47th anniversary. In those 47 years, Medicaid has provided health coverage to millions of children, helped seniors pay for nursing home care, and enabled seniors and people with disabilities to keep living in their homes. Millions of Americans rely on Medicaid for basic health coverage. But right now, there are gaps in Medicaid coverage: In most states, Medicaid does not cover many low-income adults who don’t have dependent children. The Medicaid expansion closes those gaps by making Medicaid available to all Americans with incomes under 133 percent of poverty, which is equivalent to about $25,400 in annual income for a family of three.

That change means that many people who don’t currently have access to affordable health insurance will get coverage through a program that’s proven to work.  That’s good for working families, and it’s good for states.

A number of Republican governors, such as Rick Perry of Texas, have expressed their strong distaste for such an expansion. But this opinion is short-sighted and overlooks the value that Medicaid brings to states. Medicaid helps state residents lead healthier, more productive lives. A healthier, more productive workforce leads to a growing state economy and the foundation for a more vibrant future.

The Court’s decision didn’t
change the Medicaid program as it operates today, but by making the expansion optional, the decision has made it essential for advocates to work to ensure that their state expands coverage. A number of our community partners have already paved the way and continue to advance their work by highlighting personal stories. By painting a picture of those who will benefit from expanded health coverage, advocates can show exactly what is at stake. Expanding Medicaid gives working families the peace of mind and security they need to thrive. Improving access to affordable health care for millions of families across the country is extremely important, and it will take the effort of advocates like you.