Because of a Supreme Court ruling and resistance from staunch Republican politicians many of America’s poor and underprivileged cannot afford Obamacare. People like Marc Alphonse, an unemployed homeless Marine veteran, don’t qualify for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The 40 year old marine is virtually homeless and disabled, having been diagnosed with a kidney disorder three years ago and plagued by an old knee injury that limits his ability to work certain jobs. Alphonse’s kidney disease, if left untreated, could deteriorate into kidney failure, resulting in dialysis.
Alphonse currently receives only $400 a month in unemployment benefits. On such a small income he and his family can no longer afford their home in Miami, so he is forced to couch jump from house to house with family and friends, while his wife and three young children live with relatives.
Alphonse told Huffington Post, “I live from family to family until I’m able to get myself situated.” He is one of the nearly 5 million Americans who are considered “too poor for Obamacare.”
Obamacare by design was supposed to provide free or affordable healthcare to everyone. But a Supreme Court ruling changed that by ruling that states could opt out of one of the most critical provisions of Obamacare, Medicaid. Obamacare called for an extension of Medicaid to anyone earning below or less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level, or roughly about $15,300 a year for an individual. However, after the court ruling at least 24 states, predominantly in the southern part of the country, decided not to expand the Medicaid program in their states. Without the expansion of Medicaid, an adult without a disability or not living with their children does not qualify for Medicaid, despite having a low income.
Instead, tax credits for private healthcare plans sold through the marketplace exchange are offered to those who don’t qualify for Medicaid, but those subsidies go to people earning at minimum of $11,500 for an individual. For those earning less than that in states without Medicaid, there is no coverage.
Florida’s Governor Rick Scott began his political career in 2009 as a health care reform antagonist. Initially, he opposed Medicaid expansion for the State of Florida, but he changed his mind and backed a plan to accept federal dollars to expand the Medicaid program in Florida along with the majority Republican state Senate. Unfortunately, the Republican led state House of Representatives wouldn’t go along with the plan. As a result, 764,000 low income residents in Florida will go without health insurance because of the shortfall.
Now, clinics that treat low income and uninsured patients are starting to feel the impact. They report seeing hopes crumble of people who thought Obamacare could help them. They’ve seen patients break down in tears upon finding out that they could not be covered.
“Folk are frustrated and they’re angry, and they’ll curse at you even though you have nothing to do with it,” said Jason Connor, owner of Choice Returns, a contractor to assist with Affordable Care Act enrollment.
Florida’s uninsured rate is one of the largest in the country, second only to Texas. When the Supreme Court made its ruling that states could opt out of expanding Medicaid, nearly the entire South pulled out, turning away billions in federal money offered to fund the program. The reasons they gave for their decision were budgetary concerns and resistance to Obamacare itself. These state decisions have left a huge number of the nation’s poor to live a life of extreme insecurity.
The cost of medical treatment for the uninsured will still have to be pai by taxpayers when they finally seek medical treatment. Hospital emergency by law cannot turn patients away even if they don’t have the ability to pay. According to a study published in the journal Health Affairs, unpaid medical bills totaled $57.4 billion in 2008 and taxpayers pay up to three quarters of that. While Obamacare was expected to reduce this burden, lack of Medicaid expansion makes it a continual burden to American taxpayers.
Many of the uninsured in Florida have a defeatist attitude toward seeing others who make more than them get access to subsidized healthcare while they receive nothing.
Daphne R is an experienced marketing and communications professional that provides social commentary, self-help, tips, and reports news of events that matter to African Americans.