No Medicaid expansion puts poorest citizens in a bind for health insurance

2013-06-23T00:00:00Z No Medicaid expansion puts poorest citizens in a bind for health insuranceGazette State Bureau The Billings Gazette
June 23, 2013 12:00 am  • 

HELENA – While tens of thousands of Montanans without health insurance can get federal subsidies next year to help them buy health coverage, some of the poorest Montanans cannot.

They are the roughly 40,000 uninsured adults earning less than 100 percent of the federal poverty level who don’t qualify for coverage under Medicaid, the state-federal program that pays medical bills for the poor.

These adults would have been covered by Medicaid if the 2013 Legislature had chosen to accept federal money to expand the program in Montana, as proposed by the Affordable Care Act.

But the Legislature rejected the expansion, leaving this segment of the population uninsured and without any federal assistance to buy private health insurance.

The ACA, also known as “Obamacare,” requires all citizens to have health insurance by 2014 or pay a tax penalty. For those earning 100 percent to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, the ACA provides subsidies to help pay for private insurance.

Those earning less than 100 percent of the poverty level -- $11,490 for a single person and $15,510 for a couple – cannot get the subsidies.

However, they can apply for a hardship exemption to avoid paying the tax penalty, if they can’t afford health insurance.

See the federal poverty income guidelines here:

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