Stable, affordable health coverage for people in the United States is the starting point to improving health outcomes and building a Culture of Health. In the United States nearly 75 million people rely on Medicaid for health coverage—making it the largest healthcare provider in the country.
Despite massive reductions in the number of uninsured Americans as a result of states expanding their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act, 12 states have not expanded eligibility, denying health coverage to more than 2 million people. These people disproportionately come from communities of color and fall into what is known as the Medicaid “coverage gap.”
Although many people in the coverage gap are employed, they are less likely to have jobs that offer health insurance—this includes more than half a million essential workers. Many make too much money to be eligible for traditional Medicaid, but not enough to afford the cost of health insurance they purchase themselves. As an example, a single person in Texas who makes $10,000 a year doesn’t qualify for Medicaid, even though purchasing health insurance would cost more than half their salary.
Closing the Medicaid coverage gap is the single biggest action the country can take to reduce the number of uninsured. The refusal of some states to expand their Medicaid programs means that political considerations are being prioritized over health care, even in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic where health insurance can be the difference between life and death.