Since 1965, the federal government has offered Medicaid to low-income individuals. As of 2011, Medicaid covers 53 million Americans, according to an article on post-gazette.com, and provisions in The Affordable Care Act of 2010 expand coverage availability to even more Americans in coming years. Those with limited income and resources will appreciate comprehensive coverage from Medicaid, as well as minimal or no out-of-pocket costs for coverage or medical services.
Though Medicaid is a service of the federal government, the program is both federally and state-funded. To qualify for Medicaid based on a low income, you must meet your state’s income and resource eligibility standards. For example, two adults with one child in Alaska can qualify for low-income family Medicaid with a gross household income of up to $3,009, or 185 percent of the federal poverty limit. On the other hand, if living in Colorado, adults in the same family must have a household income at or below 100 percent of the federal poverty level to qualify for coverage.
The federal government requires every U.S. state that participates in the Medicaid program to provide coverage benefits for specified mandatory services, but some states may offer extended coverage as well. The mandatory coverage requirements include benefits for hospital care, doctors’ visits, pre-natal and post-natal care, lab services, radiology, dialysis and nursing facilities. However, some states go even further to offer additional optional services such as prescription drug coverage, dental care, optometry and chiropractic services as well.
You can apply for Medicaid through your state’s health and human services department either in person, by mail and in some states, online. Be prepared to supply your state with identification and your Social Security number, as well as proof of state residency and U.S. citizenship. You will also be asked to provide information about your income and assets. Your application may go through several weeks of processing, but upon acceptance, your coverage may be retroactive for up to three months prior to applying for Medicaid coverage.
The federal government does not offer any other health insurance assistance for low-income adults, although provisions in The Affordable Care Act will change that beginning in January 2014. At that time, many Americans with incomes too high for Medicaid enrollment and without access to an employer’s health insurance plan will receive a federal tax credit to assist with the high cost of private health insurance premiums. Low and middle-income households with incomes of between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty limit will qualify for the credit.