U study: After reform, 1 in 10 poor will lack health plan

A University of Minnesota study says 1 out of every 10 low-income people living in the state will still lack access to government health care coverage, despite the Medicaid expansion under the federal health care law.

The law expands government coverage, said researcher Lynn Blewett, but there will still be low-income people without access to coverage: illegal immigrants, who are excluded from government programs, and some residents who are in the United States legally but have not been here long enough.

"Even if you're a legal immigrant, you've got all your papers, you've got your green card," Blewett said, "there's a waiting period of five years before you can be eligible for public programs. So even legal immigrants are not eligible for the Medicaid expansion until they've been here for five years."

Blewett, the head of the U of M's State Health Access Data Assistance Center, said the data is important because so-called safety net hospitals, funded largely by state and local governments, will still have to treat these individuals.

"It's important to understand that there's still going to be uninsured in communities even with the Affordable Care Act," she said.

If they can afford to do so, legal immigrants may buy commercial health insurance on the upcoming online marketplace known as MNSURE, she said, and may be eligible for tax subsidies.

A state-by-state report on the low-income uninsured can be found here.

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