138... What a weird number

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights

does not become a stumbling block to the weak.

I Corinthians 8:9


138 – what a weird number.  

But for many Americans it is an important one. Under the Affordable Care Act (otherwise known as Obamacare), Medicaid was expanded to individuals making up to 138% of poverty (or less than $29,000 for a family of 3). Most people’s income is not static when you are trying to make it in the low-wage economy. An extra shift here and there, overtime one month, and reduced hours the next, seasonal work are just a few of the things that impact 1 in 3 Ohio households that earn below 200% of the federal poverty level – or about $43,000 a year for a family of 3 – this is considered the level you need to make it. While Medicaid Expansion has helped nearly 700,000 Ohioans gain access to healthcare, the expansion doesn’t help those who earn 138.1% of poverty.

I am among the Americans who fall just above that 138% poverty level who experiences being uninsured. The marketplace was designed for us, but with Ohio’s refusal to establish an exchange, many struggle to gain access to affordable health insurance and are left delaying preventative care. Recently, I had to forgo replacement of a broken crown due to costs and a lack of insurance until the tooth became infected and was pulled.  

Before coming to The Hunger Network in Ohio, I was denied Medicaid due to the income that I was using from my retirement funds to make ends meet while working two part-time jobs. Although I couldn’t afford to buy insurance, I made too much money to be approved for Medicaid. Though these hurdles are already frustrating for many Americans, more challenges are being presented in the form of a proposal for work requirements for Medicaid recipients. 

https://www.cbpp.org/research/health/taking-medicaid-coverage-away-from-people-not-meeting-work-requirements-will-reduce)  issued in January 2018 allows states — for the first time — to take Medicaid coverage away from people not engaging in work or work-related activities for a specified number of hours each month.”

These policies and proposals do not result in healthier Americans with more jobs. Rather, people without access to care are less likely to be able to work due to things like illness and disability. As a society, we shouldn’t penalize a family for saving for retirement, nor should we punish those who are struggling to get by in a low-wage economy. Instead, we should build healthy homes and communities for all of Ohio’s families.

I Corinthians 8:9 tells us to “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. Let us continue to seek ways to ensure that we do not allow unfair policies to keep our brothers and sisters from accessing the same care which should be available for all people. 

written by Paisha Thomas, ELCA Hunger Advocacy Fellow