If you try to qualify for Medicaid, it doesn't matter whether you're employed or not. What matters is that your income is low enough for you to qualify and that you meet whatever other standards your state imposes -- although Medicaid is a federal program, each state sets its own rules. For instance, you might qualify in California, but not in Florida.
Under the federal Affordable Care Act, states can expand Medicaid to cover more of the poor and uninsured. Some states, at time of writing, have opted to reject the expansion. If a family of three, for instance, lives in an expansion state at time of writing, it may qualify for Medicaid if the family income is under $27,310. In non-expansion states the rules are tougher. In Florida, for example, recipients have to be over 65, be disabled or meet some other added standard.
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Types of Income
The income numbers you have to crunch come from your whole family's income. if you're unemployed but your spouse works, you have to count that toward your state income limits. Unemployment payments count as income, and so do withdrawals from a 401(k) or IRA account. The HealthCare.gov website says calculating your adjusted gross income gives you a good estimate. If your family income is too much for Medicaid, you may still qualify to buy a low-cost policy in the Affordable Care Act's insurance marketplace.
Caring for Kids
If you have children, you may qualify for Medicaid even in a non-expansion state. North Carolina, for instance, allows parents with dependent children to apply for Medicaid. For a family of three, the cut-off monthly income is $667 at the time of writing. A North Carolina family with a higher income may qualify for Medicaid for Infants and Children, which covers kids' medical expenses, but not those of adults in the family. If your income is too high for any Medicaid help in your state, your kids may be eligible for coverage under the federal Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP.
Doing the Research
You can find your state's requirements on the state's Medicaid website. HealthCare.gov has a web page to help you find your state's Medicaid website and help you see if you qualify. The website also provides a way to calculate to see if you qualify for Children's Health Insurance (see Resources). Even if you don't qualify for Medicaid, you may be able to take out a low-cost policy in the ACA's insurance Marketplace. HealthCare.gov has the instructions for researching that, too. The Marketplace normally accepts applications only during federal enrollment periods, but if you have employee health insurance and lose your job, you can apply outside regular enrollment times.
- HealthCare.gov: Health Coverage for the Unemployed
- HealthCare.gov: Income Levels That Qualify for Lower Health Coverage Costs
- Florida Department of Children and Families: Medicaid
- North Carolina Division of Medical Assistance: Who Is Eligible - Infants, Children, &amp; Families
- HealthCare.gov: If You Lose Job-Based Health Insurance
- HealthCare.gov: Qualifying for Medicaid Coverage