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Medicaid Expansion Would Close Youth Coverage Gap


Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, R, calls for the expansion of Medicaid, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013 in Phoenix with healthcare and business leaders at Maricopa Medical Center. An expansion would call for $8 billion in federal assistance for the State over three years.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Matt York

State legislatures across the country will convene to decide the future of Medicaid expansion—and the future of the young people who depend on it for coverage. The expansion would make it easier for those who are already eligible for Medicaid to renew their coverage, and would open up Medicaid eligibility to individuals between the ages of 19 and 65 living with an income at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The expansion would also make adults without children eligible for coverage through the program for the first time.

"If states extend Medicaid to cover up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, equivalent to a single person working full-time at minimum wage, young adults will have access to affordable coverage,"  Anna Strongs, director of health care policy for Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, told Campus Progress. "Students could get preventive care, as could young adults who are between jobs or working a dream job that doesn't offer benefits."  

This vital decision has been left to many states argued before the Supreme Court they did not have adequate time to voluntarily consent to funding the expansion, which would put their current Medicaid budget in jeopardy if they failed to comply with the law by the Jan. 1, 2014 deadline. The Affordable Care Act, however, would have covered 100 percent of the expansion with federal funding from 2014 to 2016.

In Arkansas, a state where 20 percent of adults aged 19 to 64 live in poverty, young activists tweeted at state legislators and filled their inboxes with support for Medicaid expansion over the three-day weekend celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. “With more than one in four young adults lacking health insurance, we have a vested interest in seeing expansion accomplished,” youth activist Sam Kauffman, who organized the "Tweet for Medicaid Expansion" event, told Campus Progress. “The vote for expansion is expected to be close, and the involvement of young people is crucial to passage.”

Though Medicaid expansion would help close the coverage gap for young people who are too old to be covered by a parent’s insurance—but too poor to afford their own insurance despite the coming changes, 10 states have already rejected Medicaid expansion. Seven of those states have a higher poverty rate for residents between the ages of 19 and 64 than the nation as a whole.

Molly Miller is a reporter for Campus Progress.

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