With all the excitement over the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act, we asked some of Solid Ground’s experts: What does it mean for low-income folks in Washington State? We present the following report thanks to Kate Baber of the Statewide Poverty Action Network and Stephanie Earhart, lead Benefits Attorney with Solid Ground’s Family Assistance program.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court upheld the 2010 federal health care reform law, known as the Affordable Care Act. This landmark decision allows the imple-mentation of the Affordable Care Act to move forward and will greatly expand low- and middle-income Americans’ quality and access to health care.
The Affordable Care Act will bring much needed relief to low-income communities across Washington. Since the onset of the Great Recession, access to health care coverage has become further out of reach for families and individuals due to economic hardship resulting from job loss, debt and foreclosure, cuts to employer-sponsored health coverage, and reductions in state-funded health care programs. As the economy recovers, health care reform will ensure Washington has a healthy workforce, children and students are better able to learn, and seniors and adults living with disabilities can survive.
Beginning in 2014, 800,000 of Washington’s 1 million uninsured people will be able to access health insurance. In addition to expanding access to coverage, the Affordable Care Act includes consumer protections that will greatly improve the quality and lower the cost of health care coverage for the 5.8 million Washingtonians who are currently insured.
Here’s how health care reform will benefit your community:
Reforms Already in Place:
- Insurance providers are barred from imposing lifetime benefit limits on people who are sick and need expensive care to get better.
- Insurance providers cannot deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions.
- Adults with pre-existing conditions can access care through a Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan.
- Children can stay on their parents’ health care plan until the age of 26.
Reforms to Be Implemented in 2014:
- Medicaid will be expanded to cover an additional 333,000 low-income Washingtonians. In Washington State, everyone at or below 133% of the Federal Poverty Level will be covered by Medicaid beginning in 2014.
- Overall, 477,000 low- and moderate-income people will become eligible for subsidized care in the new health insurance exchange program.
- Insurance providers cannot deny coverage to adults with pre-existing conditions and can’t impose limitations on enrollment.
- Insurance providers cannot charge higher premiums to women or sicker people and have new restrictions on how much they can charge seniors.
- Prescription drugs will be more affordable for 1 million seniors and people living with disabilities in Washington as the gap in Medicare drug coverage begins to close until it is eliminated by 2020.
- Seniors will be able to access free preventative care.
- Deductibles and co-payments for preventative services will be eliminated for everyone.
- Coverage will be expanded for early retirees who are too young to qualify for Medicare, but no longer receive employer-sponsored coverage.
State subsidized health care programs that Poverty Action has worked hard to protect from budget cuts and elimination during the Great Recession will receive new federal support and will be combined with Medicaid and expanded. These programs include: health care coverage for kids (Apple Health), coverage for people living with disabilities and mental health issues (Medical Care Services), optional Medicaid programs such as dental care and medical interpreters, and coverage for low-income, working families (Basic Health).
If you’d like to know more about Medicaid Expansion in Washington State, go to: http://www.hca.wa.gov/hcr/me.