Enrollment in Medicaid Reaches Record-High Numbers, Study Finds
A record-high 48.5 million U.S. residents, or nearly 16% of the U.S. population, were enrolled in Medicaid at the end of 2009, according to an annual survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation, the New York Times reports.
Growing unemployment and subsequent losses of health benefits were key factors in an additional 3.7 million U.S. residents enrolling in Medicaid in 2009, an 8.2% increase since December 2008 and the second-largest increase since KFF launched the annual survey 10 years ago.
The survey, released on Thursday, also found that:
- All 50 states saw enrollment growth, while nine states experienced growth rates over 15% and two states -- Nevada and Wisconsin -- had growth rates over 20%, despite enrollment growth slowing significantly in the second half of 2009 (Sack, New York Times, 9/30);
- Enrollment growth in the program averaged 8.5% in fiscal year 2010, exceeding earlier predictions of 6.6% (Lambert, Reuters, 9/30); and
- Since December 2007, which experts believe is when the economic recession began, nearly six million U.S. residents have enrolled in Medicaid.
States Continue To Struggle With Financial Woes
The survey's findings illustrate the "grim statistical picture" of the recession's toll on states, the AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Many states continue to struggle to maintain their Medicaid programs amid budgetary constraints (Alonso-Zaldivar, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 9/30).
The survey found that Medicaid spending increased by 8.8% in 2009, the largest increase since 2002 (New York Times, 9/30).
To meet the increased demand for Medicaid coverage and services:
- 48 states in FY 2010 took some type of action to scale back spending in Medicaid (Reuters, 9/30);
- 39 states eliminated, halted or reduced payments to physicians and other health care providers;
- 20 states cut or restricted benefits for dental care, imaging services and some medical equipment (New York Times, 9/30); and
- 18 states placed limits on long-term care services (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 9/30).
States have struggled with financing Medicaid despite the federal government distributing more than $100 billion since fall 2008 in additional federal Medicaid funding to help states provide coverage to the growing number of new Medicaid beneficiaries, the Times reports.
Last February, Congress approved the federal economic stimulus package that included $87 billion in Medicaid relief, which is scheduled to expire in December (New York Times, 9/30).
Last month, Congress approved a six-month state financial aid package that included $16 billion in federal Medicaid funding through June 2011.
However, states still are hoping for more Medicaid aid and are looking at other ways to cut spending, the KFF survey found. According to Reuters, at least 46 states intend to cut back on Medicaid spending in FY 2011 (Reuters, 9/30).
Recession Effects Expected To Linger
The KFF study indicates that the negative effects of the economic recession are not likely to dissipate for some time, even though the recession officially ended in mid-2009, the AP/Journal-Constitution reports.
Vernon Smith -- a co-author of the study and a principal with Health Management Associates -- said, "There seems to be no end in sight to the fiscal pressure on the Medicaid program" (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 9/30).
Smith said that if it had not been for the additional federal funding over the past few years, "we would have seen cuts on a scale that we've never seen before" (New York Times, 9/30).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.