By Erica Palmer Smith, Director of Care4Carolina
After I gave birth to my beautiful baby girl three years ago, there was one thing I never had to worry about – making sure we both had access to quality healthcare. My husband and I were blessed with careers that provided great health insurance benefits, and affordability was never an issue.
I am much luckier than so many others. I have watched family and friends struggle to afford health insurance. I’ve seen their health deteriorate as they lacked the options that I could too easily take for granted.
Right now, our safety net system is set up to punish parents for working too hard to improve the lives of their families. There is a misconception that all parents living in poverty have access to Medicaid. They don’t. If a parent earns more than 42% of the federal poverty line, they no longer qualify for Medicaid, but until their income rises above the poverty line, they can’t get a subsidy in the private marketplace. The single mom that takes on the second retail job to get ahead loses her health coverage. The dad who works full-time while his wife stays home to care for their children with special needs… neither of them have health insurance.
For a family of two, 42% of the federal poverty line is $7,220. If a single mom with a child works 20 hours a week part-time, she’s earning too much to qualify for Medicaid. If she works 40 hours a week at the same pay, she cannot make enough qualify for a subsidy in the private marketplace. For a 30-something woman in Alexander County (where I grew up), the LEAST expensive marketplace plan is $359 a month with no subsidy. That’s a third of her pre-tax income… and it comes with an $8,550 deductible.
The parents in a family of four making just over $11,400 are locked out of affordable health insurance options until they can earn $26,200 annually. Two parents working a combined 70 hours a week at minimum wage fall in the gap. A single parent earning $12 an hour full-time falls in the gap.
Over 400,000 North Carolina children have at least one uninsured parent. For their sake, it’s time we stop punishing parents for working to take care of their families. This holiday season, as we buy gifts of clothing and toys for children in need, let’s remember what they want and need most of all: loving and healthy moms and dads.