- The Washington Times - Friday, July 11, 2014

Americans this year are enrolling in Medicaid at a higher rate than in 2013, the Obama administration said Friday in an update that highlighted particular growth in states that opted to expand the government health program for the poor under Obamacare.

Through May, 6.7 million more people had enrolled in the program or the Children’s Health Insurance Program compared to a baseline period from last year, an increase of 11.4 percent.

Cindy Mann, a deputy administration at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in a blog post that more than 920,000 additional people enrolled in May compared to April in the 48 states and the District of Columbia that reported data.

Unlike Obamacare’s private-market exchanges, which have set sign-up periods, people can enroll in Medicaid year-round.

In the 38 states that reported the relevant data, “more than half of all Medicaid and CHIP enrollees are children, highlighting the importance of these programs to the health and well-being of our nation’s children,” Ms. Mann wrote.

“As we’ve seen for months,” she added, growth was “more pronounced” in the 26 states — including the District of Columbia — that had opted to expand Medicaid under Obamacare.

The health care law calls on states to expand Medicaid to those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

The federal government will pay for 100 percent of the expanded population in 2014-2016, before scaling down its contribution to 90 percent in 2020 and beyond.

In 2012, the Supreme Court said states could choose not to expand the federal-state entitlement without risking their existing funds from Washington.

The administration has encouraged states to expand their programs.

“Increasing access to Medicaid coverage reduces the amount of uncompensated care provided by hospitals, lowers ‘cost shifting’ to businesses that see higher health insurance premiums (as some of the costs of caring for the uninsured are passed on to those businesses), and strengthens local economies,” Ms. Mann wrote.

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

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