Medicaid Enrollment On the Rise as Recession Continues, Survey Finds
Medicaid enrollment in a number of states grew by 5% to 10% in the last 12 months as the economic recession continued and more people lost their jobs and employer-sponsored health insurance, the New York Times reports.
In a nationwide survey by the Times, 16 of the 40 states that responded had experienced at least a 5% increase in enrollment over the past 12 months that data was available, and the growth rate has at least doubled in many states compared with the previous year.
Many states also reported increases in enrollment in the State Children's Health Insurance Program, though smaller than those seen in Medicaid, according to the Times.
State Medicaid officials say that enrollment growth in 2008 "may represent only the leading edge of heightened demand" because "enrollment often lags behind job losses by several months," the Times reports.
The Times found that "in some cases, the surge in enrollment had overwhelmed social services agencies and prompted state fiscal analysts to shred estimates that were often only six months old."
State lawmakers nationwide are weighing cuts to Medicaid spending by:
- Freezing or reducing reimbursements to hospitals and physicians;
- Eliminating coverage of services such as dental and vision care; and
- Tightening eligibility requirements.
Medicaid cuts so far "have been concentrated on reimbursement rates for providers" -- even as "many physicians will not accept Medicaid patients because they say reimbursement rates are too low to be profitable," according to the Times.
President Obama and congressional Democrats are negotiating an $825 billion economic stimulus package that would provide additional federal Medicaid funding to states, as well as provide a 65% subsidy for the first 12 months of COBRA coverage for people who have lost their jobs since Sept. 1, 2008.
The two measures are expected to cost $38.9 billion and help 8.5 million people retain health coverage, according to congressional aides.Congress also is expected to approve legislation that would reauthorize and expand SCHIP (Sack/Zezima, New York Times, 1/22). 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.