Once Focus of Health Law, Some In Poverty May Be Left Out

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"Basically, if you're a poor adult in the state of Mississippi, you're on your own." Many of her patients have left for other states where they are eligible for Medicaid, she adds.

Ashley Tagert, who is studying accounting at a local community college, says her husband's employer offers health insurance, but the policy would cost them $1,100 a month—about half of their monthly income.

Two months ago, she had a migraine headache that was so severe she lost her vision while driving on the Interstate highway. She's back on her medications, but the cost burden has led the family to fall behind on utility bills. "It's a lot of money all at once," says Tagert. "We'll wait and put our gas or light bill off if it's due when I have to go to the doctors."

She says they've cut down on their clothing and entertainment expenses, but "school's coming up in August, and we have to buy school supplies. We're buying them a little bit at a time."

Tagert says she's undecided on the federal health law, but she thinks the state ought to expand Medicaid. "I understand that a lot of people might abuse Medicaid," she says, but not expanding the program "is punishing people like us, even though we're trying to make a better life."

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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