New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof's Harvard freshman roommate Scott Androes, who had cancer and no health insurance and who was the topic of a post here Sunday night, died on Monday, Mr. Kristof writes in a follow-up column published today.
The follow-up column offers the additional detail that "last year," before the cancer was diagnosed, Mr. Androes "earned $13,000."
That promoted me to wonder why he didn't qualify for Medicaid, the government health insurance program for poor people. It turns out that the rules in Washington State for Medicaid are pretty restrictive. There's a "family" program that provides "aid to children and the adults who care for them," but Mr. Androes does not seem to have had any children. Then there are state-provided medical care services. For those, a person "must have countable income less than $339 per month and must have less than $1,000 in countable resources."
New York State has a Medicaid program legendary for its expense to taxpayers, but even it has an eligibility standard for a single person that, while more generous than that of Washington State, is still pretty low: to qualify for Medicaid, a single person without children needs to earn less than $8,818 a year, or $735 a month. The Atlantic reports that under ObamaCare Medicaid will be expanded in 2014 "to cover 16 million low-income Americans, on top of the 60 million it currently serves."
Anyway, I'm a big critic of ObamaCare, but these numbers do indicate, at least to me, that a conservative response to the problem of the uninsured needs to go beyond, "well, if they are poor, we already have Medicaid." There is some group of people who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid under the current rules, but who also earn too little to afford health insurance. Not "I'd prefer to spend the money on an iPad, cable television, and fancy sneakers and vacations" can't afford it, but really genuinely can't afford it. And that leaves aside the whole significant question of the quality of care available through Medicaid.