The Medicaid slogan on the Medicaid.gov website states: “Keeping America Healthy,” but is it really? Medicaid in New York was built around the idea of serving those who are low-income and in need of health coverage. The main demographics they aim to help are those who are pregnant, guardians who have a child 18 years or younger, people with a disability, and the elderly of age 65 years or up. That sounds great, right? Medicaid is a program geared towards helping the populations most in need, who are likely unable to afford health insurance by themselves.
It sounds great until you look at the basic requirement for Medicaid coverage eligibility. The following table will show you the household size and income requirement to be eligible:
Household Size Maximum Income Level (Per Year)
Based on the numbers shown above, if you share a household with two family members, your combined income must be $30,630 to qualify for Medicaid. According to an article from City Limits in 2022, New York City median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is anywhere from $2500 – $3200. With some quick math, that comes out to $30,000 – $38,400 a year. No one in NYC could live on a combined income of $30,630. The Federal poverty line is what determines how household income limits are proposed. The Federal poverty line, along with the Medicaid income household income limits, must change drastically to help the low-income population Medicaid says it serves.
These numbers show the grim reality many low-income people face in New York City. I only know this harsh reality because of a close relative that lost their Medicaid, which they desperately needed, because they made only a couple of hundred dollars above the income limit during their renewal year. In addition, my close relative was penalized for overtime work at a job, requiring them to take extra hours. The system is broken, and much of it is based on how they determine who receives help and who does not. Even if you could apply as an independent, you will need to barely survive in NYC to satisfy their eligibility requirement.
A major overhaul is needed on how we view poverty and take a good look at what these numbers mean. Thus, there needs to be a consideration for variables of inflation, price changes in rents, and wage cuts to draw a new poverty line that aligns with these factors.
Christian Hernandez is a member of Young Invincibles’ New York Young Advocates Program.