Among the hallmarks of President Barack Obama’s signature piece of healthcare legislation – known officially as The Affordable Care Act, but most-commonly referred to as “Obamacare” – was its expansion of Medicaid benefits to more Americans. By way of background, Medicaid is a program run by the several States which is designed to provide medical coverage to vulnerable individuals among the population, and has a means test (i.e., an income-based test, as well as an asset-based test) to determine eligibility for benefits. Prior to the passage of the Obamacare law, generally, only the neediest Americans had access to Medicaid. This left many hard-working Americans who simply could not afford the high cost of health insurance and whose employers did not offer health insurance benefits in connection with employment without health insurance coverage. For these Americans, a single serious illness or injury in the family could – and often did – lead to abject financial ruin, as, without health coverage, the medical bills associated with a serious illness or injury were simply too large to pay. This was, unfortunately, the case of many victims of serious personal injury accidents or medical malpractice, who, despite having been injured by no fault of their own, were left to contend with mountains of medical bills that they simply could not afford to pay. Even for those victims who were ultimately awarded compensation through a personal injury lawsuit or a medical malpractice lawsuit, during the years in which their case was pending, these bills often went unpaid as the victim and their family simply did not have the money. Furthermore, these unfortunate victims often were denied the medical care necessary to treat their injuries, as, without healthcare coverage, many physicians and hospitals would refuse to treat them because payment for medical services simply could not be made.
In simplified terms, the Obamacare law provided money from the Federal Government directly to the States to expand the group of citizens who could qualify for Medicaid benefits. The States had the option to accept or reject this extra money and expand Medicaid with the use of the Federal dollars made available thereunder. Thankfully, New York – along with many other states whose governorships were controlled by Democrats – accepted these funds, and made Medicaid benefits available to more New Yorkers. Once in effect, the expanded Medicaid benefits were made available to New Yorkers who previously had been deemed “too rich” to receive traditional, pre-Obamacare Medicaid benefits. Companies such as MetroPlus and HealthFirst set up programs whereby more New Yorkers could receive health insurance backed by the newly-expanded Medicaid program, and receive health insurance coverage through these new plans. In New York, as of September of 2016, there were a total of approximately 6.3 million people enrolled in Medicaid programs, approximately 3.9 million of whom were able to receive these important healthcare benefits due to the expansion of Medicaid benefits made available under Obamacare.
The reason that the expansion of Medicaid benefits under Obamacare has benefitted New York personal injury and medical malpractice plaintiffs is fairly obvious: When they are injured, they are able to obtain quality medical care and treatment at local hospitals and physicians’ offices which, prior to receiving Medicaid benefits, they never would have been able to afford. This allows not only for these unfortunate victims of negligence to obtain the medical care and treatment required for convalescence, but also to obtain proper diagnoses and a medical history that can be used to prove damages in court. In summary, the expansion of Medicaid benefits under Obamacare has been a very good thing for all New Yorkers, especially those who have been the victims of negligence in the form of personal injury accidents or medical malpractice.