Under the health law, most people earning less than about $16,000 a year are eligible for low- or no-cost health insurance through Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that, even years from now, the number of uninsured will remain significant: about 30 million nationwide. Some portion will be those who live in states that have not opted to expand their Medicaid program to adults without dependent children; others will be immigrants who don’t qualify for coverage under the law. "But the biggest category are people who simply will choose either not to enroll in Medicaid or not to buy private insurance," Levitt says.
-Beth Engel, in Ventura County, knows the tax penalty for those who don’t have insurance would be much cheaper than paying for premiums. The 32-year-old mother of a nearly 3-year-old daughter, describes herself as among the early supporters of the ACA. “I was very hopeful" when the Affordable Care Act passed, she said. "I thought, 'Wow! I can have a job that I love that doesn’t’ necessarily have insurance but I get insurance affordably.'" Engel, works part time as a hotel clerk and qualifies for tax subsidies that reduce premiums for her and her toddler to about $200 a month.
But she chose not to buy insurance for herself this year. "I found that the premiums were still very high, and I just couldn’t afford them," says Engel.
Even though now she’s armed with the knowledge she can take the subsidy upfront in the form of a reduced insurance premium each month, she says she's hesitant without thoroughly understanding the plans offered through the state-run marketplace, Covered California.
"Maybe I’m reading these incorrectly," she said, "but it just didn’t make sense, and I thought I’m not going to put money I don’t really have to spend into a program that I don’t really understand."
This story is part of a collaboration which includes Southern California Public Radio , NPR and Kaiser Health News.
Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.
Thu, Apr 24 2014