Surprise! You might be eligible for Medicaid or CHIP

By Nancy MetcalfConsumer Reports

While politiicans and pundits fret over policy cancellations, Obamacare is quietly bringing new Medicaid and CHIP coverage to millions of un- or underinsured Americans who may not even realize yet what they have coming to them. Are you one of them?

In the first month of operation of the state Health Insurance Marketplaces, nearly 400,000 visitors learned they were eligible for free or nearly-free health coverage from one of these government-funded programs. About 183,000 managed to learn this by going through, the troubled (but improving, the government says) site that handles enrollment for 36 states that declined to set up their own marketplaces.

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The number includes many people who have been eligible for these programs all along but didn’t know it. That is especially true for CHIP, which in many states is available to families with incomes as high as three times the poverty level, or about $71,000 for a family of four. It also includes a huge group who will be newly entitled to Medicaid as of Jan. 1. That’s the date when, in 25 states plus the District of Columbia, the program will expand to cover all households with an income of less than 133 percent of the poverty level.

There’s just one problem:’s technical problems are hampering the ability of the federal government to notify states about newly eligible applicants.

But we have a workaround that will allow you to bypass entirely. Here’s what to do.

1.  Use to find out if you’re eligible

Our free online tool knows the eligibility requirements in every state for many types of Medicaid as well as CHIP. Run through the questions once for each household member, including kids, and you’ll find out who might be eligible for which program.

2. Apply directly to your state or local Medicaid or CHIP office

No need to struggle with, or any marketplace website, for that matter. Here’s where to find a state-by-state list of CHIP offices. And on this page, if you scroll to the bottom, you can call up a direct link to your state’s Medicaid office.

Got a question for our health insurance expert? Ask it here; be sure to include the state you live in. And if you can't get enough health insurance news here, follow me on Twitter @NancyMetcalf.

—Nancy Metcalf

Health reform countdown: We are doing an article a day on the new health care law until Jan. 1, 2014, when it takes full effect. (Read the previous posts in the series.) To get health insurance advice tailored to your situation, use our Health Law Helper, below.

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