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Expanding Health Coverage for Low-Income Adults: Filling the Gaps in Medicaid Eligibility

Low-income adults (those with incomes below 200 percent of poverty, or $33,200 for a family of three in 2007) account for just over half of the non-elderly uninsured in the United States. This brief reviews the health coverage of non-elderly low-income adults and discusses the implications for national health reform efforts of broadening coverage for this population by filling gaps in Medicaid eligibility.

Low-income adults are more than twice as likely to be uninsured as low-income children. Many low-income adults have significant health needs, and yet lack access to employer-sponsored coverage and cannot afford or access private coverage in the individual market.

Although Medicaid covers some low-income adults, parent eligibility levels are below poverty in 34 states and childless adults are excluded from the program under federal rules. Eliminating the categorical exclusion of childless adults, increasing income eligibility levels and enhancing the federal financing available to support coverage for adults could enable Medicaid to cover more of the low-income uninsured and help establish a strong floor of coverage upon which additional expansion efforts could build.

Summary (.pdf)

Policy Brief (.pdf)