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May 21st, 2013 6:54 pm
Another ObamaCare Gap in Coverage Exposes Tangled Safety Net

How big is a “gap” in coverage when it affects 840,000 people?

The Los Angeles Times says that California is racing to pass a “bridge” program into law that helps individuals and families likely to be caught between qualifying for Medi-Cal (the state’s version of Medicaid), and ObamaCare’s new state-based health insurance exchange.

In California, residents earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level, or about $15,000 a year, will be eligible for Medi-Cal next year. Individuals earning up to 400% of the federal poverty level, or about $46,000, will be eligible for subsidies through the exchange, known as Covered California.

The Covered California board approved a plan in March to help patients expected to jump between the two. The “bridge plan” would enable patients now on Medi-Cal managed care whose incomes rise to continue to stay with their health plan once they move to the exchange.

The program, which still needs federal approval and state legislation to take effect, could serve as many as 840,000 people next year. The plan should streamline the process, keep out-of-pocket premiums low and make it easier for people to keep their providers, said David Panush, external affairs director with Covered California. “It is better for their quality of care, it is better for continuity of care,” he said.

While it’s refreshing to see California taking steps to protect people from being penalized for working more, what the article doesn’t mention is how related government policies are putting the squeeze on the state’s working poor.

California’s anti-business climate – coupled with ObamaCare’s perverse incentive structure that makes it more affordable for businesses to cut hours rather than pay hefty premium increases for employee’s health insurance – are underreported tax increases on the working poor.

By diminishing the number and quality of jobs available to people at the bottom of the employment ladder, certain public policies make it exceedingly difficult for people to work their up into a better standard of living.

Because of this, one way to think of the constant tinkering and enlargement of public benefits is as a way to compensate the working poor for taking away their access to an abundance of jobs where they can get the experience and skills needed to move upward an onward.

Under the current regime, a “bridge” program between Medi-Cal and Covered California is the least state policymakers can do. Still, those entangled in the state’s safety net deserve better.

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