If Christine Gregoire Takes Away Your Healthcare, the Feds Will Save You... in 2014

Cantwell and her fellow senators are building a health care safety net. Unfortunately, it might not be ready in time.
Under the 2010 budget proposed earlier this month by Gov. Chris Gregoire, 65,000 people will be kicked out of the state's Basic Health Care plan. The plan covers families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but can't afford private insurance. Another 39,000 people in other state programs also may lose their health insurance. Will Obamacare come to their rescue?

Definitely--as long as they can hold out for another four years before getting sick.

According to the state Department of Social and Health Services, the health care bill Senators are likely to vote on (and expected to approve) this week will provide some kind of option for most of the people the state might kick out. Unfortunately, it will likely be more expensive and it won't happen until 2014.

Roger Gantz, policy director for the state Department of Social and Health Services, says that if the bill currently before the Senate goes through, states would have more money for Medicaid. As a result, the threshold to qualify for Medicaid would go up to 133 percent of the poverty level (currently $22,050 for a family of four). More than two-thirds of the people currently on the state Basic Health plan fall within that range, Gantz estimates, so they would be eligible for Medicaid.

The other third of the people on Basic Health and anyone enrolled in other state plans will have the option of purchasing health insurance through a health insurance exchange. In an exchange, the feds negotiate insurance plan prices on behalf of all consumers, much like big corporations do. The idea is to get the price breaks big businesses get and make them available to everyone.

Gantz says that will make it easier for people to buy insurance for themselves. But, he adds, "I want to be clear, they would probably have to pay more."

This is all good news in that even if the legislature doesn't pass new taxes to stop the cuts in Gregoire's budget, a federal safety net is in the works. The only problem is that in the version of Obamacare Senators are considering this week, those other options won't be available for a few more years, Gantz says.

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