Clipboard: Mass. officials aim to close coverage gap caused by glitch in federal health law

Due to a glitch in the law and the deep partisan divide in Congress, nearly 4 million people may be ineligible for federal subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, Tracy Jan writes in today’s Globe.

Eligibility for help in buying a health insurance plan will be based on a person’s ability to pay for individual coverage, not the more expensive family plans, even if they are looking to cover dependents.

The glitch could leave nearly 4 million people, including 460,000 children, uninsured. The Patrick administration has proposed a fix for Massachusetts with the hope that other states could follow suit. The pilot program, which would cost about $33 million, would allow workers at small businesses who can’t afford a family plan to qualify for subsidies through the state’s Medicaid program next year.

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Jan explains what led to the coverage gap:

The glitch stemmed from the fact that the health care law was passed in a hurry following the death of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat and key health care champion, and the election of Republican Scott Brown, who had vowed to block the law, to Kennedy’s seat, health policy experts said.

Instead of forming a conference committee to clean up the legal language and resolve technical issues, Congress moved health care reform through the reconciliation process, a budget mechanism that allows a bill to pass with only 51 votes in the Senate, avoiding a filibuster.

“There was no opportunity to review the bill and fix areas that weren’t perfectly aligned,” said Judy Solomon, vice president for health policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which has been pushing for a fix. “Now with the final regulation having been released, it would require a legislative change. The House just passed a bill to repeal it but to do anything to make it work better seems impossible at this point.”