HHS bumps up poverty guidelines

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has bumped up the income guidelines to establish poverty level cutoffs and multiples, Kaiser Health News reported.

The increase could allow more people to obtain insurance via Medicaid and the state health insurance exchanges in the coming months, giving more financial stability for hospitals and other providers.

Under the guidelines, the Medicaid eligibility cutoff for a family of four rose to $32,913 a year, up from $32,499. The cutoff for income tax premium subsidies up to 400 percent of the poverty level jumped  to $95,400 from $94,200. The income cutoffs are slightly higher in Alaska and Hawaii because their geographic isolation from the continental U.S. drives up prices.

The federal government attributed the adjustments to a 1.5 percent general price increase.

Although the levels became official as of Jan. 1, they won't factor into Medicaid eligibility or purchasing coverage from the health insurance exchange until this fall.

During the last three months of 2013, about 6.3 million Americans signed up for Medicaid coverage, a number likely influenced by the less stringent income eligibility guidelines under the Affordable Care Act. However, HHS didn't provide enough data to clearly delineate the ACA's effect on Medicaid enrollments, according to the Washington Post.

Twenty-six states expanded Medicaid eligibility, 23 other states didn't expand and two others are still in the process of deciding what to do. Politics guided most of the state's decisions, although fear of asset recovery after death has apparently also held down enrollments.

For 2013, nearly 80 percent of those who purchased coverage through the exchanges received some form of premium subsidy based on their income, according to HHS data.

To learn more:
- read the Kaiser Health News article
- check out the Washington Post article
- here's the HHS enrollment data (.pdf)

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