- The Washington Times - Monday, April 7, 2014

Just 10 states accounted for more than 80 percent of the 3 million new Medicaid enrollees who have signed up through Obamacare this year, according to a private analysis released Monday, which reported that Florida was the only state to enroll more than 100,000 residents without expanding the federal-state entitlement under the new law.

Avalere Health, a Washington consultancy, analyzed new data from the Obama administration and released a color-coded map that shows a wide disparity in enrollment totals from state to state, with California, Florida, Oregon and Washington bringing in the most new participants in the government health program for low-income Americans.

“We continue to see dramatic variations across the states in terms of enrollment into new coverage programs,” said Jenna Stento, a senior manager at Avalere. “While some differences may be a result of state decisions to expand Medicaid, certain non-expansion states are also seeing large increases in Medicaid enrollment.”

While enrollment into health plans on Obamacare’s exchanges are restricted by opening and closing dates, persons can enroll in Medicaid year round.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that 8 million new Medicaid enrollees would join the program in 2014. 

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services last week said that through February, 3 million new enrollees had joined Medicaid. 

Avalere said that number could reach 3.7 million if enrollment increases at a steady rate, or 4.3 million if enrollment draws the same kind of interest that private health plan exchanges drew at the end of March.

President Obama’s overhaul called on the states to expand Medicaid to Americans making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, but only 26 states and the District chose to expand after the Supreme Court made it optional.

Nineteen states have declined, while five states are actively debating expansion in their states, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, which studies health policy.

Obamacare’s critics say the Medicaid program is flawed or that the federal government cannot be trusted to pay for 100 percent of the expanded population in 2014-2016, a share that drops to 90 percent by 2020, as it has promised.

Mr. Obama’s supporters say states that chose not to expand are leaving poor people without health care.

They also said the law’s opponents created an odd situation in which some residents earn too much for Medicaid, but too little for government subsidies on the Obamacare health care exchanges.

The subsidies were reserved for people making between 100 percent and 400 percent of the official poverty level, because the Affordable Care Act’s authors assumed every state would expand Medicaid.

The Avalere report can be found at here.


• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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