Some Virginians rejected for Obamacare as coverage deadline looms

Posted at 5:11 PM, Mar 29, 2014
and last updated 2014-03-31 00:39:46-04

PETERSBURG, Va. (WTVR) -- Inside Zion Baptist Church in Petersburg Saturday, dozens gathered to learn information and sign up for"Obamacare" coverage. (March 31,2014)

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If you haven't started the process of enrolling by Monday, failing to have health insurance of any kind will result in an IRS fine of either one percent of your annual salary or $95 dollars - whichever is greater.

"This has been just a blessed day," Aurelia Heal told CBS 6 after she enrolled in a plan that will cost $117 a month.

Heal is a cashier at a local gas station and has not had health insurance for fifteen years.

"I haven't been to the doctor in ten years," Heal told political reporter Joe St. George.

Heal is one of the estimated six million Americans who have acquired health care coverage thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

She tells CBS 6 all she needed to sign up was an ID, her social security number, and a recent W2.

But not everyone who showed up for the in person enrollment Saturday was given coverage.

William Simms was hoping for coverage because under current Virginia law he in ineligible for Medicaid. [Click here for more information from]

"I want healthcare so when I go to the doctor I can be covered," Simms said.

The Medicaid Gap

However, because Simms makes less than $11,490 dollars a year he is considered ineligible for Obamacare as well - falling into what is known as the "Medicaid Gap."

The "Medicaid Gap" exists because the Supreme Court struck down the provision of the Affordable Care Act which expanded the Medicaid program to cover people like Simms.

The Supreme Court says it is up to the states whether or not they want to expand the medicaid program. Virginia has elected so far not to expand.

While the federal government says they will pay the full of cost of medicaid expansion for the first three years, Virginia Republicans in the House of Delegates fear an expansion could create a heavy financial burden on the Commonwealth down the line. It is for that reason they have resisted calls by Democrats for expansion.

"Just like every other Obamacare expansion scheme we've seen so far, it is built on the premise of free money from Washington,"  Delegate John O'Bannon (R-Henrico) recently said on the House Floor.

For Virginia Congressman Bobby Scott that rationale is hard to comprehend.

"People have already paid for it - we have paid the taxes so we ought to get the benefit," Scott said.

Scott urged Democrats to "make their point" on Obamacare but would not go as so far to say they should shut the state government down over the issue.

Currently, Virginia Democrats and Republicans are at a budget impasse because of the subject.

Young People Signing Up?

While the White House said more than 6 million Americans have enrolled ahead of the Monday deadline, VCU healthcare expert Dr. Andrew Barnes is more worried about who is not enrolling: young people.

The White House initially said 40 percent of enrollees would have to be young people, but Barnes said enrollment has fallen about 15 percent short of that goal.

“You need young healthy people to subsidize older sicker people,” Barnes said. “If you don't have healthy people coming in, then the prices are going to go up.”

As a result, Barnes fears insurance companies will charge higher premiums for everyone trying to make up losses.

As for concerns that not enough young people are enrolling to make Obamacare financially stable, Scott said "the numbers are showing the young people are signing up."

However, Scott said young people need to stop thinking their invincible.

“A lot of people will get sick this year and run up extraordinary expenses in healthcare," Scott said.