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Medicaid expansion may be behind decreasing SSI applications

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, sometimes called "Obamacare," expands the categories of people eligible to receive Medicaid. Medicaid is the government's free insurance system that is meant to be utilized by those individuals who are not provided health insurance through the workplace, and cannot afford to buy it elsewhere. While some states have balked at participating in this expansion, Ohio has followed the federal law and allowed more of its citizens to become eligible for the Medicaid program.

Health insurance industry watchers are now debating whether this expansion has had an effect on the number of people applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Because being found eligible for SSI often means also becoming eligible for Medicaid, it is believed that many poor people applied for the SSI program as their only way to receive health insurance. Thus, with more people eligible for stand-alone Medicaid coverage, there are fewer people filing for SSI, or so the argument goes.

It is clear that SSI applications are down. According to information received from the Social Security Administration (SSA) through a Freedom of Information Act request by the publication Modern Healthcare, SSI applications were down over 10 percent nationally in the first six months of 2014, as compared to the same period the year before. In Ohio, they dropped 12.2 percent.

The mere fact of a drop does not necessarily mean the expansion of Medicaid is the reason, however. Some point to the improving economy as a potential cause of the fall in SSI claims. This argument may make more sense in states like Ohio, where an SSI application does not "automatically" qualify one for Medicaid (a separate application must be made).

Whatever the reason, this drop in applications means more people are remaining in the workforce rather than collecting SSI. Those that still need programs like SSI, however, may wish to consider consulting an experienced attorney in their area.

Source: ssa.gov "Is Medicaid expansion reducing disability claims?," Accessed Nov. 3, 2014

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