Walmart Workers Pushed Off Health Plans Face Future With No Coverage, As Governors Oppose Medicaid Expansion

Source: Alice Hines / The Huffington Post

If state governors follow through on plans to oppose the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, one substantial group of low-wage workers appears vulnerable to going without medical coverage: people who work at Walmart.

The world’s largest retailer recently outlined a new policy that will exclude from health coverage newly hired employees who work fewer than 30 hours per week, as The Huffington Post reported this month. Experts described that move as an attempt by Walmart to shift the burden of providing health coverage to the government — specifically, to Medicaid, the insurance program for the poor.

Obamacare includes a dramatic expansion of Medicaid, one that will potentially extend health insurance to as many as 10 million people by 2016, according to the most recent Congressional Budget Office estimates. It would achieve this by expanding eligibility to include individuals with annual incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty limit — currently $14,856.

A primary mission behind Obamacare was to ensure that people in low-wage service sector jobs — which typically do not include health benefits — would gain some form of medical coverage. But in a landmark ruling this year, the Supreme Court gave states the right to opt out of the Medicaid expansion. Republican governors in Texas, South Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, Maine and South Dakota have subsequently signaled plans to do just that.

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