We have all heard the debates over the “Affordable Healthcare Act”, or as it is commonly referred to in the media, “Obamacare”. Although the bill will be implemented for the most part in several years time, there is still one component of the bill that the Supreme Court ruled Unconstitutional and remains a battle between the states and federal government. This issue is over the expansion of Medicaid.
To put this context, one must first understand what Medicaid exactly is and what it means to expand it. Medicaid was implemented in the 1990’s and was designed to help low income citizens pay for their healthcare. Eligibility was limited to low asset families and varied from state to state. With the Affordable Healthcare Act, the program would be expanded to cover people 19-65 who make 138% of the Poverty Line every year. People meeting the eligibility requirements would have to be a citizen, not be incarcerated, and not eligible for Medicare. With these new eligibility requirements, a new category of Medicaid recipients has been created, allowing more people than ever before the chance to have their healthcare paid for.
After the Supreme Court ruled that the Affordable Healthcare Act was in fact Constitutional, it also ruled that the federal government would not be allowed to punish states that refused to expand Medicaid by withholding federal funding. Several states have gone on record saying that they will refuse to expand Medicaid. Most governors from Southern states cite that they just cannot afford to pay for the expansion. “It is abundantly clear that North Carolina is not ready to expand the Medicaid system and we should utilize a federal exchange,” said North Carolina governor Pat McCrory.
On the other side of the debate, several other states are firm supporters of expanding the program. Illinois governor, Pat Quinn, has gone on record supporting the measure. “Illinois will continue to work with President Obama to help working families get the healthcare coverage they need,” Quinn said.
With two sides of the argument and several states on the fence, the one thing that must not be lost in the debate is how the quality of patient care will be affected. It is a fact that people receiving Medicaid will be more likely to seek medical care and also will have longer hospital visits. With a larger group of citizens covered, this number will only increase. The question remains, will physicians and nurses be able to handle the increased volume and provide the same quality of care to each individual patient? This can only be answered once the implementation takes place and healthcare providers and lawmakers can determine this for themselves.