Navigating ACA Health Insurance: Understanding Primary and Secondary Coverage for Disability

In the wake of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), many individuals have encountered challenges in navigating health insurance coverage. A recent post highlighted a case involving a disabled wife whose insurance company refused to cover certain medications due to her primary insurance being Medicaid. This incident raises important questions about the interplay between group health insurance and Medicare/Medicaid.

Medicaid and Medicare: Understanding the Difference

Medicaid and Medicare are two separate programs administered by different entities. Medicaid is a state-run program that provides health coverage to low-income individuals and families, while Medicare is a federal program that provides health insurance to people 65 and older, as well as those with certain disabilities.

Primary and Secondary Insurance

In situations where an individual has multiple insurance policies, one policy is designated as the primary insurer, while the others are considered secondary. The primary insurer is responsible for paying the majority of the medical expenses, while the secondary insurance covers any remaining costs.

ACA’s Impact on Coverage for Disabled Individuals

The ACA expanded Medicaid eligibility to include more low-income individuals, including those with disabilities. In some cases, individuals with disabilities who previously had private health insurance may now qualify for Medicaid as their primary insurer.

Implications of Medicaid as Primary Insurer

As described in the post, individuals who have Medicaid as their primary insurance may encounter coverage limitations. Medicaid is a payer of last resort, meaning it will only cover expenses that are not covered by other insurance policies. This can lead to situations where medications or treatments that are covered by secondary insurance may be denied by Medicaid.

Options for Individuals in Similar Situations

If you encounter a similar situation where your primary insurance is Medicaid and you are denied coverage for essential medications, there are several options available:

Appeal the Decision: You can appeal the Medicaid denial of coverage to the state Medicaid agency.
Seek Coverage from Secondary Insurance: If the medications are covered by your secondary insurance, you can submit a claim to them for reimbursement.
Consider Medicare Part D: Medicare Part D provides prescription drug coverage. You may be eligible for Part D if you have Medicaid as your primary insurance.
Explore Other Resources: There may be non-profit organizations or drug manufacturers that offer financial assistance or discount programs for medications.


Navigating health insurance can be complex, especially for individuals with disabilities. It is important to understand the differences between Medicaid and Medicare, as well as the implications of having Medicaid as your primary insurance. By exploring the options available and seeking professional guidance, individuals can ensure they receive the health coverage they need and deserve.

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