Millions Of People Who Could Benefit From Obamacare Don’t Because They Don’t Know About It, And Neither Does The New York Times – OpEd

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Most people don’t keep up on the details of government policy. This is understandable because they have lives to live, and can’t spend all their time following the structure of various government programs. However, it is unfortunate when their lack of knowledge prevents them from using a government program that could benefit them greatly.

This is true of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) which created health care exchanges that allow tens of millions of people to get insurance with large subsidies. Many people who could benefit from these subsidies, which in many cases cover the full cost of a policy, don’t take advantage of the exchanges because they don’t know about the subsidies.

Apparently, this ignorance applies to New York Times columnists and editors. A New York Times column trashing the Biden economy (a regular feature of the paper) told readers about benefit cliffs that many moderate-income families face. The story is that many people lose Medicaid, food stamps, or other benefits when their income rises above certain thresholds.

While this is a real problem, the specific example given in the piece is not.

“A helpful starting point would be to address benefit cliffs — income eligibility cutoffs built into certain benefits programs. As households earn more money, they can make themselves suddenly ineligible for benefits that would let them build up enough wealth to no longer need any government support. In Kansas, for example, a family of four remains eligible for Medicaid as long as it earns under $39,900. A single dollar in additional income results in the loss of health care coverage — and an alternative will certainly not cost only a buck.”

There are two problems with this story. First, a family of four would almost certainly be eligible for the CHIP program, which in Kansas provides health insurance for children for families that earn up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $78,000 for a family of four.

The other problem is that this family would be eligible for a full subsidy for a silver plan (middle quality) in the exchanges created by the ACA as long as their income was under $45,000. Even with an income of $60,000 a year, they would only be paying $1,200 a year for their insurance.

It is unfortunate that people who could benefit from the Obamacare exchanges often don’t. If our country’s leading newspaper could be bothered to give correct information, maybe there would be fewer people in this category.

This first appeared on Dean Baker’s Beat the Press blog.  

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