Medicaid cuts could mean loss of coverage for some

- Families across Florida could lose their health insurance through a quirk in the Affordable Care Act. Politicians in Congress are trying to fix it, but part of their plan may backfire on some people who need help the most.

Ray Martineau ought to know. He had a job and bought subsidized health insurance off the government exchange. Then doctors discovered cancer in his bowels. He had two advanced tumors, and needed surgery and chemo.

He became too sick to work. His mother postponed retirement to pay his premiums for him. However, with no proof of work, they would not accept his mother's money. Under the law, recipients have to have income to get subsidized health insurance. So when Raymond lost his ability to work, he also lost his coverage.

"If you can't earn the income for us to give you this subsidy, we cannot give you insurance. That's what they wrote in the letters," he said. "If the premiums are being paid, why would you take my health care?"

Under the Affordable Care Act, U.S. Congress decided people with no income should not get subsidized insurance. Instead they should qualify for Medicaid, or state-run health care for the poor. However, just being poor does not qualify you for Medicaid in Florida. You have to be poor plus disabled, or under 18, or have children, etc. So a lot of people like Ray slipped through the cracks. They canceled his policy, and cut off his treatments last year. Then he discovered another twist that saved his life. 

As his health deteriorated, the government qualified him as disabled, which in turn qualified him for Medicaid to get him back on his feet. Four surgeries later, he's cancer free, and eager to go back to work.

And as he recovered, he met a woman named Shirley and they recently married.

But while Ray Martineau credits Medicaid for saving his life, politicians in Washington now plan to slash it by hundreds of billions of dollars as part of the plan to replace the Affordable Care Act.

With politicians focused on the costs of Medicaid, Martineau hopes they also consider the payoff, and reconsider substantial cuts.

"If more people had it they could get back to work and start paying taxes and start paying into society and building their lives back," he said. "Not only that, they'd be happier and healthier."

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