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By Randy Dotinga
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Lisa Zamosky
July 31, 2013 -- Low-income residents of New Hampshire won't know for months whether their state will expand Medicaid coverage in time to meet the Affordable Care Act's Jan. 1, 2014, deadline. That's when almost all Americans must have health insurance or pay tax penalties.
The state Legislature has been sharply divided over the issue on party lines, with Republicans challenging expansion and Democrats favoring it.
At issue is whether New Hampshire should allow Medicaid coverage to become available to adults under age 65 who aren't pregnant, aren't already eligible, and who have incomes less than 138% of the federal poverty level. That's $32,499 for a family of four in New Hampshire and almost all other states.
A state commission will report to the Legislature about Medicaid expansion on Oct. 15, The Boston Globe reports. The newspaper says the Legislature could meet in a special session to put the expansion into effect. Expanded coverage would add tens of thousands of poor adults to the Medicaid rolls in the state, according to the Globe.
It would take time for the state to let New Hampshire residents know that coverage is available, and they'd have to sign up by Dec. 15 for coverage to start on Jan. 1, 2014.
A 2012 Supreme Court ruling allowed states to decide whether to accept or reject Medicaid expansion. In states that do not expand Medicaid, people who would have qualified under expansion will be exempt from the individual mandate to have insurance.
States can expand Medicaid eligibility at any time, so it could go into effect in 2014 or later. But enrollment periods, when residents can sign up for coverage, are limited each year.
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