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Medicaid

Virginia Lawmakers Must Act Now and Cover More People in Medicaid

Each week, my colleague Stephanie Glover and I take a short trip to Arlington to volunteer as Certified Application Counselors (CACs). We talk to Virginians about the health coverage options available under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and help them enroll in an affordable comprehensive insurance plan. It is very exciting to meet new clients each week—all of whom are uninsured—who are eager to learn about their options and obtain coverage.

The best part of the experience is enrolling a previously uninsured family into health insurance that meets their needs and fits their budget. Clients leave the office happy and incredibly thankful to the volunteers. The worst part of this experience is telling clients that, unfortunately, they are not eligible to enroll today. I try to explain they are not eligible to enroll in a private plan because their income is below the poverty level which means they do not qualify for federal subsidies and yet they earn too much income (or fail to meet other eligibility criteria) to qualify for Virginia’s current Medicaid program.

Because Virginia is one of 26 states that have not taken federal funding to cover more people in Medicaid, hundreds of thousands of residents fall into this “coverage gap.” Most clients are confused and do not understand why they cannot enroll—they have all of their tax paperwork and other documentation with them, and are ready to complete the process. They leave the office frustrated and disappointed. Some ask what they should do in the meantime. Others say they will check with the Medicaid office in the summer to see if anything has changed. Read more »

The Coverage Gap Poses Risks to Low Income Women's Health

Did you know that in the last 12 months nearly 60 percent of low-income uninsured women went without needed care because of cost? Or that in 2012 only 46 percent of low-income uninsured women received their recommended mammograms? What if we told you that states could take action to solve this problem today? And the federal government would start out paying for the full cost of this policy, and ultimately cover 90 percent of the bill?

You might be surprised, but this option is immediately available to all states. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), states may expand coverage through their Medicaid programs, providing health insurance to millions of low-income Americans. Yet twenty-five states have not done this, leaving over three million women in a coverage gap. This gap results from states’ failure to expand coverage and applies to individuals with incomes below the poverty level (approximately $11,500 for an individual) who do not qualify for traditional Medicaid. Women with income above poverty are eligible for subsidies for private health insurance available through their state Marketplace.

A new report from the National Women’s Law Center illustrates the risk the coverage gap poses to low-income women’s health. More specifically, the report shows that women in the coverage gap also experience a health care gap. In general, low-income women without health insurance are significantly less likely to access basic health care services on a regular basis and are less likely to use important preventive services than women who have similarly low incomes but who are covered by public or private health insurance. Read more »

Supreme Court Case About Unionizing Home Care Workers Raises High Stakes

The U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t do snow days, apparently. While much of D.C. hunkered down Tuesday for our latest winter storm, the Court went on as usual, hearing oral arguments in a case that could upset years of established labor law. It could leave low-wage workers, overwhelmingly women, who provide home health care services under Illinois’ Medicaid program—and potentially other public employees—without a voice at the negotiating table. Knowing how high the stakes are, I ventured out to listen.

The case, Harris v. Quinn, addresses key questions about the unionizing of in-home care providers paid by the state of Illinois through two Medicaid programs. Here is a boiled-down version of the main issues: First, if a majority of care providers vote in favor of an exclusive bargaining representative (a union), can the state recognize and negotiate with that union? Second, can the providers who voted against unionization be required to pay a “fair share fee,” a payment that goes to cover the administrative costs of bargaining the contract that also benefits them? Read more »

Arizona Scores Huge Medicaid Win: Legislature Passes Governor Jan Brewer's Expansion Proposal

Approximately 238,000 uninsured Arizonans will now have access to health care coverage in the coming months, thanks to the state legislature's passing of Governor Jan Brewer's expansion proposal. 

Over two hundred thousand. That's a lot of people. 

The legislature made the right decision yesterday, and now hundreds of thousands of hard-working, low-income women and families will have access to health care because of it. Not only will these residents have access to health coverage that includes preventive care, chronic disease treatment and other essential health services, but they also benefit from an increased sense of economic security and knowing that they will not be subjected to financial ruin in the case of a medical emergency. Read more »

Iowa Governor Will Have Final Say Over Medicaid Reimbursement for Abortion

Imagine being a twenty-something year old woman, caring for a toddler, working to make ends meet, and finding yourself facing an unintended pregnancy. Who would you want to talk to? Your partner? Your doctor?  Maybe your friends? Siblings? Parents? Religious leaders? Would you want this guy to have a say in what you can and cannot do?

Last week, the Governor of Iowa indicated that he will sign the state budget, which includes a provision giving him the final decision making authority over who can and cannot receive Medicaid funds to cover the cost of an abortion. He will now have the authority to review each and every individual’s case separately. Since 1976, federal law has restricted Medicaid coverage of abortion. Read more »

We Have a Decision: West Virginia Governor Will Accept Federal Money to Cover Hard-Working Women and Families

West Virginians scored a huge win today! WV Governor Earl Ray Tomblin decided to accept federal funds available under the health care law to cover more hardworking women and families through the Medicaid program. After months of activism by fantastic on-the-ground organizations like WVFREE and state advocates, Governor Tomblin made the right call.

Why this decision is so important? Today’s announcement means that:

  • Over 67,000 women in West Virginia could be eligible for coverage.
  • When combined with other reforms in the health care law, this coverage expansion could reduce uninsurance in West Virginia by over 67%.
  • It will bring in $721 million federal dollars, and could save West Virginians over $281 million in uncompensated care costs.

Why Medicaid Expansion is Good for West Virginia

Read more »

Most People Want States to Take Federal Money to Cover More Uninsured People through Medicaid

Cross-posted from the Daily Kos.

Across the country, states continue to debate and negotiate whether they will accept federal money to cover more uninsured people through Medicaid. But nearly two out of three people have already made up their minds that lawmakers should take this unprecedented opportunity to cover more people, according to a new survey sponsored by the National Women’s Law Center and Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families.

The new health care law known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) allocates money for each state to cover more uninsured people through Medicaid. It’s a great deal for states, since these federal dollars will cover 100% of costs in the first few years and will ultimately pay for 90% of the yearly costs of this coverage. But because last year’s Supreme Court decision made accepting these funds optional, in states that choose to turn down the money, some people will earn too little to qualify for tax credits to purchase coverage in the new health insurance marketplace, yet won’t be able to obtain coverage through Medicaid. In other words, these people will fall into a “coverage gap” and will get no help toward affording health coverage, while some people who make more money will still get help.

Read more »

Opposition to Obamacare Thawing, Maine Has a Chance to Cover More People

We continue to watch Governors and state legislators across the country as they make a crucial decision that will have an enormous impact on women and families.

Under the new federal health care law, women and families in Maine who are currently uninsured could get affordable health coverage starting next year. That’s because the law includes money to cover more people through Medicaid. Right now, Maine has an important decision to make—accept federal dollars that have been allocated to cover uninsured individuals through Medicaid or turn down the money and leave them uninsured. If Maine accepts the federal funds to cover more people, not only will it improve women’s health and dramatically reduce the number of uninsured, it will also ensure a smarter use of health care dollars.

A recently released study backs this up! Yesterday researchers from Maine Equal Justice Partners and the Maine Center for Economic Policy released a comprehensive study on this opportunity. Their findings show that accepting federal funds to expand health coverage means thousands of Mainers will receive affordable comprehensive health coverage, and the state will also benefit through a boost to the state economy. Read more »

The FY 2014 Ryan Budget: One Terrible Idea After Another

Today House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) released his vision for the next ten years. Despite having a section entitled "Fairness Restored," Ryan’s budget does anything but put forward a fair and equitable plan.

Chairman Ryan’s plan balances the budget on the backs of vulnerable women and their families. It would:

  • Cut the funding available for programs like Head Start, child care, K-12 education, job training, and domestic violence prevention.
  • Cut Medicaid and turn it into a block grant, allowing states to restrict eligibility and eliminate benefits. About two-thirds of adult Medicaid beneficiaries are women.
  • Repeal the Affordable Care Act, eliminating the Medicaid expansions critical for low-income families, tax credits to help moderate-income families purchase health insurance, help with the cost of prescription drugs in Medicare and preventive health care services (including contraceptive services), and protections against discriminatory insurance company practices.

Major Part of Obamacare Has a Chance in Virginia

It’s been an exciting few weeks for advocates who are urging Governors and state legislators to say yes! Last June, the Supreme Court upheld the health care law but let states choose whether or not to take the Affordable Care Act’s funding for covering more people through the Medicaid program. Ever since then, Virginia advocates have had their work cut out for them—making phone calls, knocking on doors, and educating anyone who will listen about the important benefits to the state of Virginia, hospitals and health systems, and to the women and families who will gain the most.

Last weekend, Virginia took a big step forward. The two-year state budget includes a compromise proposal that could lead to Virginia extending coverage to approximately 350,000 Virginians who currently lack health insurance. Under this proposal, a legislative committee will ultimately determine whether the expansion will move forward. Governor McDonnell is currently reviewing this legislation.

What’s at stake by covering more people?

  • Approximately 169,000 Virginian women would gain health insurance coverage
  • Combined with other reforms in the Affordable Care Act, it could reduce the percentage of uninsured women in Virginia from 17 % to 4 %
  • Accepting the money could save Virginia approximately $424 million in uncompensated care costs over the next ten years