HHS Secretary addresses subsidy 'gap'

HHS Secretary addresses subsidy 'gap'

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HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

The Affordable Care Act did not provide for subsidies to help some low-income Americans buy health insurance because they would be "taken care of in the Medicaid program," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in an interview.

Sebelius was asked about the issue Friday in an interview with News Channel 8, which has reported on a gap in which some Floridians make too little money to qualify for subsidies to make insurance cheaper.

For example, a family of three in Spring Hill recently found – using the online calculator provided by the Kaiser Family Foundation – that insurance could cost them more than half their $12,000 annual income and they did not qualify for any subsidy help. If they made $20,000 instead, they would have qualified for subsidies that would bring their premium costs down to an estimated $400 per year.

Florida has – so far – not taken part in the Medicaid expansion proposed by the federal government. The expansion would come with billions in federal money to help pay for the initial costs of the expansion. Gov. Rick Scott backed the expansion, but the Florida state House rejected it.

"If they don't choose to expand the Medicaid coverage, lots of families like the one you just described are pretty much left out in the cold with no financial assistance to get affordable healthcare," Sebelius said.

Related Content on: Affordable Care Act

However, Spring Hill resident Kimberly Mulrooney, a mother of a 7-year-old who works part-time, said she would rather buy insurance from her family rather than be on Medicaid, even if she qualifies.

There doesn't appear to be a backup federal option for the Mulrooneys and others whose income falls below 100 percent of the poverty level.

Also in the interview Friday, Sebelius addressed the troubles with the healthcare.gov website as the new online insurance marketplace launched this week. Users in Tampa Bay and across the country reported delays and difficulty logging on to the site.

Sebelius said the issues stemmed from heavy volume, with 7 million people accessing the site in the first 48 hours.

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