The Ongoing Challenge of Providing Access to Health Care for Everyone

Access to affordable health care continues to be an important conversation both locally and nationally, including here in Montgomery County.

Maryland expanded access to Medicaid for low-income individuals in 2014, and Virginia is just now embarking on plans to expand Medicaid (Virginia’s roll out was the topic of the Kojo Nnamdi Show on NPR which aired on Wednesday, November 14, 2018. You can listen to the show here).

Medicaid is a joint state and federal government program that helps to provide health care for low-income people. Medicaid expansion allows states to set their own standards for who is eligible for coverage.

Montgomery County is a very expensive place to live, with an area median income of $100,352. Annual earnings for someone working full time at minimum wage of $12/hour would be only $24,960. And while more than 95% of our patients are employed, they all remain very low income. Without Mercy, these patients might have to choose between paying for rent, food for the family, or health care and the medications they may need.

Patients whose income is at or below $16,753 may qualify for Medicaid, which does not necessarily mean they have ready access to health care. Many doctors limit the number of Medicaid patients they serve, creating a barrier to access for these patients. To help eliminate this barrier,  Mercy is an available option for Medicaid patients. Mercy also provides primary care and specialty care through the Montgomery Cares program for adults who are not eligible for federal or state health coverage.

Additionally, Maryland residents whose income is above $16,753 but below $48,560 may be eligible to purchase subsidized individual health insurance plans through the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange.

The health insurance environment is complex and constantly changing. Fortunately there are community health resources like Mercy to help our community members who struggle to gain access to healthcare due to barriers associated with poverty.

Mercy continues to work with our community partners to ensure access to health care for low-income patients, including those who do not qualify for Medicaid or subsidies, but cannot afford health insurance.

At Mercy, we believe that we all benefit when everyone in our community has access to health care!

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