Last week, a very confused customer came in looking for help from Lynne Thorp, an Obamacare navigator in southwest Florida. She was in her early 60s and had been diagnosed with cancer, which had prevented her from working for more than a year. She was enrolled in Medicaid's "medically needy" program, which offers some level of coverage for people with serious illnesses, but doesn't satisfy the health reform law's individual mandate. It was too expensive anyway; she'd been skipping radiation and hadn't seen a doctor for two months.
The woman told Thorp that she just wanted to find out if she qualified for an exemption so she wouldn't have to pay the mandate penalty. She had already called the state's Medicaid office, and they had told her that she didn't qualify for any coverage except the medically needy program (Florida has not expanded Medicaid under Obamacare).
But that wasn't right, Thorp discovered. The woman qualified for Obamacare's tax credits to help her purchase a private plan. She eventually bought a plan that would cost her $19 a month. The woman was in tears by the time she finished signing up.
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