By Melissa Quinn ~
Conservative lawmakers say Congress should investigate the number of millionaires who qualify for and enroll in government-sponsored health insurance under Obamacare, a trend exposed in a Daily Signal report earlier this week.
At the monthly Capitol Hill event Conversations with Conservatives, lawmakers in attendance discussed a recent Daily Signal report involving people with high net worths who legally enroll in Medicaid, and Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., suggested the “loophole” should receive further congressional scrutiny.
“This is what happens. You open the door. You don’t do your verification. You don’t know who is coming into the program, and yes, you’re going to see a program like this balloon and get out of control quickly,” Blackburn said when asked if Congress should investigate the findings. “Is it an issue? Yes. It was an issue for TennCare, it will be an issue for Obamacare.”
Similarly, Darin Miller, spokesman for Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, told The Daily Signal the congressman would be “open to investigating the [Medicaid] expansions that allow this sort of thing to happen.”
“This is just another reason why Obamacare needs to be repealed,” he said.
On Tuesday, The Daily Signal reported that under the Affordable Care Act, Americans who have significant sums of money in assets—in some cases up to $5 million—but low monthly incomes can qualify for and enroll in Medicaid. Obamacare, as it was written and passed by Congress, did away with an asset test previously used in traditional Medicaid, and the new system allows asset-rich Americans to enroll in government-sponsored health insurance so long as their monthly incomes are low enough.
The trend is particularly prevalent in the 31 states and the District of Columbia that expanded Medicaid, as eligibility requirements were loosened to include individuals who make below 138 percent of the federal poverty line, or roughly $16,000 annually.
During Conversations with Conservatives, Blackburn likened asset-rich Americans’ use of the current Medicaid system to her experiences with TennCare, Tennessee’s Medicaid program.
Launched during the Clinton administration, TennCare was a trial program and deviated from traditional Medicaid eligibility requirements. Blackburn, who served as a state legislator after the program’s implementation, said TennCare’s cost quadrupled over a five-year span as enrollment soared.
Tennessee’s governor proposed a state income tax to cover the ballooning costs of the state Medicaid program, which Blackburn played a primary role in defeating.
“Well guess what?” Blackburn said Thursday in reference to TennCare’s history. “Since there was no verification for enrollees, you had people who did not belong in the program, who were not at 400 percent or below of poverty, but had plenty of resources to attend to health care on their own that chose to make TennCare the program of first resort rather than the program of last resort.”
Under Medicaid’s new eligibility requirements in expansion states, individuals who make less than $16,000 can enroll in government-sponsored health insurance. The federal government will cover 100 percent the costs of Medicaid expansion until the end of the year. By 2022, participating states are required to cover 10 percent of the costs.
Studies have shown that though Obamacare has lowered the number of people without health insurance, the majority of new enrollments are those added to Medicaid rolls.
“Almost every state that has expanded Medicaid under Obamacare grossly underestimated the number of people that would qualify, grossly underestimated the cost to their state,” Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., said at Conversations with Conservatives.
Under the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid eligibility is linked solely to modified adjusted gross income, which standardized eligibility with the tax code.
However, in doing away with an asset test and leaving just an income test, insurance brokers say populations including those with large amounts of land, those who received substantial divorce settlements and graduate students are enrolling in Medicaid.