By Lambert Strether. Originally published at Corrente.
Some of the millions of poor people expected to lose out on Obamacare coverage next year because their states are not expanding Medicaid might have a way to get help, but the strategy carries risk.
Experts say the key is for them to project their 2014[*] income to at least the federal poverty level, about $11,500 per person or $23,500 for a family of four.
We explained how those income calculation works — and the ethical problems with it — here.
That would entitle them to federal subsidies that would cover nearly all the cost of private coverage sold on new online insurance marketplaces set up by the federal health law. The subsidies are available on a sliding scale to people making between the poverty level and four times that amount.
Everyone applying for subsidies must estimate their 2014 income. . Since many rely on hourly or seasonal work, their incomes often fluctuate by a few thousand dollars each year. That’s one reason why people often lose eligibility for Medicaid, the state federal insurance program for the poor.
While on a government application for financial assistance, if their income above the poverty level in 2014, and is later found to have made less than the poverty level, they won’t have to pay any money back, according to the Treasury Department.
“There’s little risk because under the rules ,” said Richard Trembowicz, vice president for Celtic Insurance Co., a subsidiary of Centene Corp. which is offering plans on several exchanges, including Mississippi.
So, Kaiser is recommending that poor people “merely miscalculate” their income. Just on the high side.
Maybe I’m just old-fashioned, but that sounds to me a lot recommending that people lie. (And never mind that you fill out the ObamaCare form under penalty of perjury.) Will Kaiser also recommend that people “merely miscalculate” to avoid being forced into Medicaid? How about if they “merely miscalculate” a few dollars low to get into the Exchanges at 400% the poverty level, minus a dollar? Would that be OK? Why or why not?
To me, this has the smell of devolution, and is yet another example of how Obama corrupts whatever he touches. What’s happened to Kaiser Health News — as reputable an organization as we can find on the health beat these days — that they’re now going “nudge nudge wink wink” to poor people about how they can game the system?
And how about the Navigators? How about the HHS help line? How about healthcare.gov chat? Will they, too, be recommending that people “merely miscalculate”?
Of course, and as usual, with single payer Medicare for All, none of this lying and gaming would be necessary: Everybody in, nobody out.
NOTE * Yes, you have to project your income to claim your subsidy. That’s a whole ‘nother can of worms.