I have been getting a lot of questions from my clients about how the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. ACA, a.k.a. Obamacare) will affect them. Typically, Social Security claimants had been insured through their work and, once they are unable to work, they lose their health insurance coverage. This has been a common and tragic problem for as long as I have been practicing. Therefore, many of my clients have been hopeful that the ACA might provide the insurance they so badly need.
Unfortunately, the heart of the ACA (allowing for purchasing of private insurance on exchanges and forbidding the use of preexisting condition denials by insurance companies) doesn’t mean much if you have no income to actually purchase the insurance. Even with the subsidies the federal government provides, you still need to pay something. By definition, people filing for disability cannot work a substantial amount and so even heavily subsidized insurance is unaffordable.
The problem described above was expected when Congress set up the ACA, so it was meant to coincide with an expansion of state Medicaid programs to cover people that could not purchase the insurance on their own. Tennessee and Mississippi (like many other states) have elected not to take this Medicaid money from the federal government, whereas Arkansas and Kentucky took the money. As of right now, the clients that have been most helped have been in Arkansas and Kentucky. I have several Arkansas clients who have been without insurance for years and have recently been approved under its Medicaid program. For them, this means actually being able to receive real medical treatment, as opposed to being periodically triaged in the emergency room. For clients in Mississippi and Tennessee, not much has changed. Hopefully, lawmakers in Jackson and Nashville will see the success being enjoyed by these neighboring states as well as the vast amount of federal money they are forgoing and reconsider this position.
For those that need more information on applying, the Tennessee Justice Center has compiled a good tip sheet on the subject.