Too Poor to Qualify for Subsidies in Obamacare? Yes!

Some people in some Republican-governed states are too poor to qualify for subsidies to buy insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

You get that right: too poor to qualify for subsidies.

Here is how I discovered this remarkable fact:

There was a Reuters article at Huffington Post on January 22nd, “Target Cuts Health Coverage For Part-Time Workers, Citing Obamacare,” and it reported that Target, “like Home Depot, said it was shifting medical coverage for part-time workers to new public marketplace exchanges,” in order to cut costs.

One of the reader-comments to that news-report came from “Kate,” who said, “In Alaska, where we have to rely on the federal Affordable Care Act Health Insurance Marketplace, a single person has to make at least $14,350 per year and a family of 4 has to bring in a minimum of $29,440 to qualify for tax subsidies to help pay ACA premiums.”

I replied to her comment: “That’s obviously and clearly false, because all of the ACA subsidies kick in only for people whose income is below a given amount — not at all for people whose earnings are above that amount (as you there allege).”

She responded: “You have no idea what you’re talking about. I am a Certified Application Counselor for the ACA and there is an income range within which qualifies folks for the tax subsidies. A single person has to have an AGI between $14,350 and $57,400 to get a subsidy. Those who fall below the $14,350 are out of luck because our governor did not accept the Medicaid Expansion program under the ACA. Check your facts.”

I was shocked to find that my understanding of the Affordable Care Act was so grossly deficient in this crucial regard.

Subsequently, I looked to find verification of what this “Certified Application Counselor for the ACA” had asserted. And I found it, at the “Quick Check Chart for Alaska and Hawaii: Do I qualify to save on health insurance coverage?”

This problem isn’t to be blamed only on Obama, but also on the Republican Governors (such as Sean Parnell in Alaska) who took advantage of U.S. Chief Justice John R. Roberts’ offering governors the opportunity to treat ACA’s Medicaid-expansion as being optional. The Affordable Care Act hadn’t been written with the possibility in mind that a state governor might choose to deny low-income citizens an expansion of Medicaid which would be almost 100% paid for by the Federal Government (rather than by the state). The possibility that Republicans would try to sabotage Obama’s Presidency in this way hadn’t even been contemplated by Obama.

Apparently, Obama must have ignored Rush Limbaugh’s saying, on 16 January 2009, “I hope he fails.” Then, at the “Take Back America Conference” on 27 February 2009, the Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, endorsed Limbaugh’s statement. Subsequently, on 25 October 2010, the “Think Progress” website bannered “Mitch McConnell: I Want … To Make Obama A One-Term President,” and quoted McConnell, from an interview with the Republican National Journal (which soon removed from its website all record of its interview), in which McConnell said, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” On 4 November 2010, McConnell gave a speech to the Heritage Foundation saying the same thing: “Our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term.” Virtually all of the largest corporations were pouring money into Republican political campaigns to help Mitch McConnell achieve his dream; but, far from Obama’s retaliating, he cooperated with their efforts.

So, this situation resulted from both a stupid President and a vicious Republican Party — not just John Roberts and the other Republican judges, and not just from Mitch McConnell and other congressional Republicans, but from the President himself, and from the former WellPont VP, Elizabeth Fowler, who actually wrote the law in the offices of the conservative Montana Senator Max Baucus, whom Obama chose to oversee its drafting, so as to keep the political contributions flowing from the health insurance companies and medical providers.

During the past few months, I have asked many people whether there are individuals and families who are too poor to qualify for subsidies under Obamacare, or the ACA, and no one yet has answered “Yes” to that.

Did you know that the answer is “Yes?”


Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.




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  • Here in Pa., I think you have to make $9,000 to qualify for ACA, thanks to Gov Corbett.

    Exact same thing as you: the person who told me, I didn’t believe them. I thought how can you make ZERO and not qualify? wtf?

    As of January 2014, in Pennsylvania, Medicaid eligibility for non-disabled adults is limited to parents with incomes below 38% of poverty, or about $9,000 a year for a family of four, and adults without dependent children remain ineligible regardless of their income.

  • kimyo

    mr. zeusse, i’m not clear on your position here. do you consider the ACA to be a) mostly functional? b) irretrievably damaged? or c) [insert your own description here]?

    if you were appointed as the czar of the ACA, what would your top 3 actionable items be?

    • cettel

      Include in it a public option in which the costs to consumers include administrative costs that are comparable to those in Medicare (which is estimated at from 1.4% to 5%, with the lower number being likelier

      and the remainder consisting 100% of beneficiaries’ medical costs; and let that socialistic plan compete against any private or other plan that meets the requirements that are specified in Obamacare, such as the ban on rescisions. In other words: let the “ineffcient” governmentally run option compete fair-and-square against the private, corporately provided, for-profit insurance companies’ plans, which have administrative costs that are in the range of 10% to (the maximum permitted under the Affordable Care Act) 20% (so as to enable the CEOs to be overpaid, and to reward the stockholders with “dividends” and “capital gains,” such as aristocrats (and the piddling proportion of stockholding hoi-polloi) demand from their gambles.
      Then, once the rigged subsidies to the fascist (the libertarians’ ideal) riff-raff get removed from the provisioning of basic healthcare in America, this country will be able to compete against of countries on at least an equal footing, no longer spending two to four times higher a percentage of GDP on healthcare and no longer producing inferior healthcare. (A British study show that healthcare in Britain was superior to the U.S. healthcare that America’s rich receive, and far superior to the healthcare that America’s poor receive. On healthcare the U.S. is the most corrupt country on Earth, and that corruption adds an enormous deadweight to the U.S. economy.
      There are also other things that I would change in the Act.
      Once virtually all Americans except Republicans (“believers in the free market”) are in the public-option plan, and stockholders of the for-profit plans find their stock-values going down, I’d have Democrats in Congress push for investigations into the corruption within the medical and insurance markets in this country, so that all of the Republican-Obama-protected rackets there will be exposed and will fold, with Republican insureds, running for the exits of the for-profit insurance plans and stocks. At that time, an expanded Medicaree-for-all can be introduced in Congress to replace Obamacare via a unification of the public-option system and the Medicare system at which point the (Joh-Roberts-imposed) abilities of Republican governors to screw the poor in their states will be gone.
      We’d be left with a supercharged national economy, which would also be far less punishing to the poor.

      • kimyo

        if your endpoint is to ‘replace obamacare’ why not just start by ripping up all 800 pages and drowning it in the bathtub?

        also, your frame of republican vs democrat may be of some use as far as boomers go, but the millenials find both to be equally bogus.

        • cettel

          As to your first point, it’s not strategic. It won’t happen that way; it cannot happen that way. Furthermore, even if it could, the results wouldn’t be as good.

          As to your second point, it’s irrelevant.

  • davidgmills1

    Here’s the workaround loophole to the problem of medicaid non-expansion.

    You simply estimate your income to be enough to qualify for a subsidy on the insurance exchange (in TN, my state, that is $11,500 — Medicaid expansion would have covered from about $9,500 – $11,500). The government is not going to penalize anyone for estimating their income to be higher than it turns out to be, thus enableing the person to buy private insurance with a 94% subsidy, rather than government Medicaid. Plus it is not a crime to report more income than you actually made.

    And if you estimate your income too low, you only will be required to pay in tax what the premiums would have been had you estimated your income properly.

  • BuelahMan

    I was shocked to find that my understanding of the Affordable Care Act was so grossly deficient in this crucial regard.

    Me? Not so shocked.

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