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Medicaid Eligibility for Low-Income Adults Lags Badly in Non-Expansion States

January 22, 2015 at 12:51 PM

The 23 states that haven’t expanded Medicaid as part of health reform have very limited Medicaid eligibility for non-elderly low-income adults, the latest annual survey of state health program officials from Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families and the Kaiser Family Foundation finds.  That’s a key reason why 4 million uninsured adults remain in a “coverage gap” in non-expansion states, with incomes too high for Medicaid but loo low for subsidies to buy coverage through health reform’s marketplace.

By and large, non-expansion states have kept Medicaid eligibility for low-income adults at the very low income levels in place before health reform took effect.  In the typical non-expansion state, parents only qualify for Medicaid if they have incomes less than 45 percent of the poverty line, or less than $9,000 a year for a family of three, according to the report.  And in nearly every non-expansion state, non-disabled non-elderly adults without children don’t qualify for Medicaid no matter how low their income is.  (See chart.)

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By comparison, in the 27 states and the District of Columbia that have expanded Medicaid, non-elderly adults with incomes below 138 percent of the poverty line ($27,000 for a family of three) are eligible for Medicaid.

Most of the 4 million adults in the coverage gap either work or are in a family with a worker, the Kaiser Family Foundation previously reported.  file type icon Research shows that for most low-wage workers, their employer either doesn’t offer coverage or doesn’t offer coverage that they can afford.

States that have expanded Medicaid have enjoyed especially large gains in insurance coverage since health reform’s major coverage expansions took effect in January 2014.  For states like Idaho, Utah, and Montana, which are seriously considering expanding Medicaid this year and have very limited Medicaid eligibility, the Medicaid expansion offers a surefire way to achieve similar progress.


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