Medicaid is the most affordable option for people who have lost their health care coverage due to a job loss. But you must meet stringent eligibility requirements.
You can’t earn more than 138% of the federal poverty level to be eligible for Medicaid. You also must live in one of the 37 states that have elected the Medicaid expansion through the Affordable Care Act. If you qualify, you get free Medicaid coverage with no premiums or deductibles.
Applying for Medicaid should be your first option after you lose your job, said Karen Politz, a senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit that focuses on national health issues. Medicaid is also a good option for those who didn’t have employer-sponsored insurance before.
“Some people are still worried that Medicaid is for really poor people. There’s a stigma,” Politz said. “But it really is for everybody. It’s for people who fall on hard times and aren’t earning any income for now.”
How to apply
If you’re not sure if you qualify, start by filling out the questions on HealthCare.gov to understand whether you’re eligible for Medicaid. It asks where you live, how many people are in your household, and what you expect to make for the current year.
Medicaid eligibility is decided based on your monthly income. As long as one can prove that your monthly income for the last month was below the maximum threshold you should be eligible — provided your state has expanded coverage.
While state applications and instructions may vary, you’ll likely need the following information:
Proof of citizenship or lawful residence
An estimate of your income
Your household size
Birth date and Social Security number (SSN)
Income information from your most recent pay stubs and W-2 tax form
Policy numbers and information about your old health coverage plan
For Medicaid, there is also some retroactive eligibility. If you apply and seek care, then there's a chance that the care you got while your application was pending will be covered by the program, depending on which state you live in.
While some Medicaid programs pay directly for your care, others use private insurance companies to provide the coverage, depending on the state.
Restrictions on eligibility
There are some other restrictions on Medicaid eligibility for immigrants.In general, immigrants aren’t eligible for Medicaid until they have lived in the U.S. for at least five years, while undocumented immigrants aren’t eligible at all.
Many states have extended their Medicaid eligibility to lawfully-residing immigrant children and pregnant women during that five-year waiting period.
“Immigrants in the five-year waiting period can qualify for subsidies in the healthcare marketplace, even if their income is below poverty level,” Politz said.
Denitsa is a reporter for Yahoo Finance and Cashay, a new personal finance website. Follow her on Twitter @denitsa_tsekova.
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