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Your Opinion: Medicaid expansion would cushion job loss

Your Opinion: Medicaid expansion would cushion job loss

August 16th, 2013 by Cynthia Johnson, Jefferson City in News

Dear Editor:

More than 470 RR Donnelley workers will lose their jobs in October, just two months before Christmas. I've no doubt the community and its citizens will want to do all they can to help these workers and their families get past this crisis and into new jobs as soon as possible. Given the state of our economy, this may take some time.

Our neighbors and friends at the RR Donnelley will lose their jobs in October. For many, this will mean filing for unemployment benefits, retraining and months of job hunting. RR Donnelley paid a living wage and these salaries may be hard to replace. This was also the case when Daniels Construction completed its work on the power plant in the early "80s.

Today's unemployed workers have an advantage that wasn't available back then. The health insurance marketplaces will open on Oct. 1. RR Donnelley workers will be able to purchase good insurance plans at low cost and many will qualify for subsidies to bring their out-of-pocket expense even lower. These plans must accept them and cannot charge more if they have pre-existing conditions. There are no lifetime caps on coverage and their young adult children may be covered under their plan up to age 26.

Previously, the only coverage option available was under COBRA, a law that allows employees to remain on an employer's health plan for up to 18 months. The employee pays the full cost of the plan, not just the amount that was deducted from his pay. Paying double or more is not unheard of to keep the same coverage.

Even the low cost plans in the marketplace may be out of reach for RR Donnelley workers who are sole breadwinners for their families. For them, an unexpected illness or accident can mean years of debt or financial ruin.

Coverage could be made available if our elected official would expand Medicaid to 138 percent of poverty ($15, 856 for an individual, $30,000 for a family of four). Medicaid expansion would provide some peace of mind for these workers, and bring new jobs into our community.

Under current rules a mom with two kids making $5,000 is considered too wealthy for benefits. Adults without disabilities cannot qualify at all, no matter how destitute.

Jefferson Citians are known for lending a helping hand to those in need. Our elected officials need to follow our lead and expand Medicaid now.