The simple answer to this question is no – Obamacare and Medicaid are two different programs – but they are inextricably linked. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a system of healthcare reform that was enacted in 2010 and dubbed “Obamacare” because it was put forth by President Barack Obama. Medicaid, on the other hand, is a government funded public welfare program intended to ensure that low-income individuals and families have access to medical care.
While Obamacare is designed to provide affordable health insurance options to all Americans, including those who were previously uninsured (or uninsurable), Medicaid is free, but extremely limited in scope, including who can take advantage of the program and which doctors and facilities accept the coverage and provide services.
Before you decide which program is right for you, it’s important to understand how they’re different and what program you’re eligible for. Here’s what you need to know before enrolling.
Who Can Use Obamacare?
The ACA was designed to offer affordable care to all Americans. It is particularly helpful to low-income Americans and those deemed to have pre-existing conditions. These groups made up the largest number of uninsured Americans prior to the passage of Obamacare, mainly because they could not afford health insurance coverage or they were unable to gain coverage at all.
Americans that earn over a certain income threshold per individual or household may not see any cost savings by applying for insurance through state exchanges, but there are many discounts available for those who fall into the low-income category. The fact that discrimination (in eligibility and pricing) is prohibited means that patients with pre-existing conditions not only qualify for coverage, but receive affordable coverage.
Who Can Use Medicaid?
Medicaid is available only to those who fall into the lowest income bracket, but it includes coverage for all children and adults who are in this select group. All children are covered by CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program).
Medicaid insurance benefits are provided free of charge and include many preventive healthcare services. However, only certain doctors and facilities offer services to Americans using Medicaid, so you’ll have to make sure you select appropriate providers in order to avoid costs.
What is Medicaid Expansion?
Obamacare mandated many changes to the existing healthcare system, including Medicaid. The Medicaid expansion was intended to increase the number of low-income individuals and families eligible for Medicaid coverage.
Under the expansion plan, Americans living at or below 138% of the federal poverty level are eligible for Medicaid. This includes individuals earning $15,417 or less annually, for example, or families of three earning less than $26,347 annually.
Can I Use Both Medicaid and Obamacare?
The answer to this is no. If you apply for coverage through your state health exchange and your income is low enough, you will be eligible for free coverage offered through Medicaid, but you cannot double dip and receive additional coverage through Obamacare.
Unfortunately, some states opted out of Medicaid expansion. In these states, individuals and families that would have qualified for Medicaid coverage under the Obamacare expansion may find themselves ineligible for both Medicaid and assistance through the health marketplace. In this case, you can apply for an exemption so you don’t have to pay penalties for going uninsured.