Supreme Court has upheld health care law individual mandate. Did you expect that?
While lawmakers have mixed opinions about Thursday’s Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act, many living in Washington want to know how this will impact their life.
For residents who are not currently insured, it means big changes. Under the Affordable Care Act, around 800,000 uninsured people in the state of Washington will receive either free health care or financial assistance.
According to the state, about 338,000 people who have never before qualified for free Medicaid coverage, will be eligible to receive it as of January 1, 2014.
But when all of the new applications are processed, there could be as many as 500,000 new people receiving Medicaid, because another 150,000 to 170,000 people will apply who are already eligible under the current rules, but just didn't realize it.
“These are people that are very low income, poverty, with significant health problems,” said Washington state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler.
Ingrid Fortunato of Olympia is one of the people who will now qualify.
"It's wonderful," said Fortunator, who got up early Thursday to find out what the Supreme Court had decided. She's lived without health insurance since her auto repair business started struggling in 2008.
"I didn't have insurance because I couldn't afford insurance, period," said Fortunato.
Low-income adults like Fortunato, who don't have children, have not been able to qualify for Medicaid before.
“People who have incomes below 400 percent of poverty (now qualify), so right now that's about $44,000 for an individual and about $92,000 for a family of four, people whose incomes are less than that can get subsidies,” said Sallie Sanford, University of Washington law professor. (A DSHS Health Care Authority spokesperson said the income limit for a family of four is closer to $90,000 a year, but the numbers could change by 2014 based, on poverty levels and inflation.)
For those who do have insurance, the biggest change might be how their provider treats them. The law says that you cannot be dropped because of health conditions and you can’t be cut off if you have a lengthy and expensive illness.
“It's something that you deal with for the rest of your life and knowing that I'll have the tools to do that. I mean there's no greater gift that that,” said cancer survivor Nikki Mackey.
There has been talk that all of this will come at a price.
“The Congressional Budget Office estimated that with many more people insured and that with these protections for people with prior conditions, that premiums should go down,” said Sanford.
The changes aren’t supposed to kick in until 2014.
Anyone with questions about the Affordable Care Act can go to the state's Health Care Authority website.
KING 5's Drew Mikkelsen and Amy Moreno contributed to this report.