MEDICAID: Welfare Reforms Leave Millions Uninsured
While advocates have trumpeted the 1996 welfare reforms as a success, nearly one million low-income parents have lost Medicaid coverage and probably have become uninsured as a result, according to a Families USA study released yesterday, the New York Times reports. The survey found that the number of low-income parents enrolled in Medicaid in 15 states tumbled by 27% -- falling from 3,503,553 in January 1996 to 2,557,673 in December 1999. Under the 1996 act, people leaving welfare retained Medicaid eligibility for six months to a year, but states have not always provided the coverage. "[H]undreds of thousands of low-wage working parents were cast adrift without health insurance ... they are losing their Medicaid lifeline," Ronald Pollack, executive director of Families USA, said. Until recently, federal officials claim that they "were unaware of any serious problems." In May 1999, HHS spokesperson Melissa Skolfield said that it was "too early to know for sure if there is a cause-and-effect relationship" (Pear, 6/20).
In April, the Clinton administration ordered states to restore Medicaid benefits to families improperly denied coverage. "We've provided guidance to the states and we are working with them to make sure that when a family does leave the welfare rolls they can keep Medicaid," HHS spokesperson Michael Kharfen said (Bowean, Wall Street Journal, 6/20). According to William Waldman, executive director of the American Public Human Services Association, states have recognized the problems and are working to remedy them. "It remains an issue that needs to be addressed," he said, predicting that states will achieve "some very significant developments" (Gullo, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/20).