By Elliot Jager
Millions of Americans who consider themselves able-bodied and middle class will in 2014 find themselves covered by a remodeled Medicaid program that previously had the image of serving the poor and disabled.
People who live in the District of Columbia and the 25 states which have expanded Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act will see Medicaid taking on a wider role in providing healthcare, The Washington Post reported.
From Wednesday, anyone in those places with an individual income of less than $15,856 a year, including childless adults, as well as families with earnings below $32,499 will be eligible for Medicaid coverage. Among those likely to seek Medicaid will be the unemployed, lower-paid workers, those just entering the job market and retirees who do not yet qualify for Medicare.
In states where Medicaid has not been expanded it will cover its usual catchment of children and those with very-low incomes as well as the elderly poor and handicapped.
The Supreme Court ruled in the summer of 2013 that the Obama administration could not compel states to expand their Medicaid services. The original plan was to use Medicaid expansion as part of a comprehensive Obamacare effort to provide all Americans with health coverage.
Starting in 2014, in all states, Medicaid will no longer factor personal savings — except for those in long-term care— in determining eligibility.
Medicaid presently covers more Americans than Medicare. Both programs were created by the Lyndon Johnson administration's Great Society legislation in 1965.
Matt Salo, who heads the National Association of Medicaid Directors, noted that "Medicaid — for all the good we think it does, and it does do a lot of good — does have a connotation," of being a program for the very poor, the Post reported.
Opponents of the expansion say it will encourage dependency on the government. "It is very bad social welfare policy," said Edmund Haislmaier, of the Heritage Foundation.
"You are taking people who are by and large young, healthy and perfectly capable productive members of society and encouraging them to become dependent on public assistance. This is the very last population you want to do that for."
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