On Sunday, while discussing the Senate’s proposal to replace and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or “Obamacare”), White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told ABC’s “This Week” that the people on Medicaid who will lose coverage under the Republican plan could find jobs that provide health insurance.
When the ACA expanded Medicaid coverage, Conway said, that “opened it up” to healthy people who could, theoretically, work. “Obamacare took Medicaid, which was designed to help the poor, the needy, the sick, disabled, also children and pregnant women, it took it and went way above the poverty line to many able-bodied Americans,” she said, and they “should probably find other — at least see if there are other options for them.”
Conway went on: “If they are able-bodied and they want to work, then they’ll have employer-sponsored benefits like you and I do.”
As Jonathan Cohn points out in the Huffington Post, however, Conway’s reasoning is faulty: “the majority of able-bodied adults on Medicaid already have jobs. The problem is that they work as parking lot attendants and child care workers, manicurists and dishwashers ― in other words, low-paying jobs that typically don’t offer insurance. Take away their Medicaid and they won’t be covered.”
Research from the Kaiser Family Foundation bears that out: “Among Medicaid adults (including parents and childless adults — the group targeted by the Medicaid expansion) nearly 8 in 10 live in working families, and a majority are working themselves.” Fifty-nine percent of them work either part- or full-time. Their jobs, however, do not offer health insurance.
Under the ACA, companies with 50 or more employees are required to offer health insurance coverage to employees working at least 30 hours a week, or pay a penalty. That leaves a loophole large enough to drive a truck through.
“Fifty-seven percent of firms offer health benefits to their workers,” reports the KFF. “The likelihood of offering health benefits differs significantly by size of firm, with only 47 percent of employers with three-to-nine workers offering coverage, but virtually all employers with 1,000 or more workers offering coverage to at least some of their employees.”
Further, the KFF notes, “among firms that offer coverage, an average of 79 percent of workers are eligible for the health benefits offered by their employer. Of those eligible, 79 percent take up their employer’s coverage.” Ultimately, only 63 percent of employees in workplaces that offer coverage get coverage through their employer.