Hang on for Obamacare

Just don’t get sick for four years.

Under the 2010 budget proposed earlier this month by Gov. Chris Gregoire, 65,000 people will be kicked out of the state's Basic Health Care plan. The plan covers families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but can't afford private insurance. Another 39,000 people in other state programs also may lose their health insurance. Will Obamacare come to their rescue? Definitely—as long as they can hold out another four years before getting sick. The final version of the federal bill still has to be decided. But Roger Gantz, policy director for the state Department of Social and Health Services, says both the current House and Senate versions would help anyone who loses their state insurance. For instance, Gantz expects the final measure to include more funding for Medicaid. As a result, the amount of money you can make and still qualify for Medicaid will go up to 133 percent of the poverty level (currently set at $22,050 for a family of four). Most of the 65,000 people who would fall off the state Basic Health plan earn within that range, Gantz estimates. So they would be eligible for Medicaid. The rest of those people, and anyone enrolled in other state plans, will have the option of purchasing health insurance for themselves through a federal health-insurance exchange. But, Gantz adds, "I want to be clear, they would probably have to pay more" than they do for state coverage. Of course, Gregoire is hoping to stave all this off by instituting new taxes that would maintain state health coverage. For though there is a federal safety net in the works, it won't be ready to start catching people until 2014.

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