More Families Seeking Health Coverage Than Ever Before: Medicaid Enrollment up by 3.3 Million (60 Percent Children) – Say Ahhh! A Children’s Health Policy Blog

In this often-called “unprecedented” economic recession,
it is easy to become jaded by the dire statistics thrown our way. This week
however, the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured (KCMU), gave us a positive number to
consider:  over the last year, 3.3
million more uninsured people (2 million who were children) were able to rely on Medicaid for health coverage.
According to KCMU, this was the largest one-year increase in terms of numbers
of people in the history of the program. 
When you think about it, it should come as no surprise.  Since most people receive their health
coverage through their jobs, the current high unemployment rate equates to
millions of families also losing health coverage. Fortunately for these
families, they were eligible for Medicaid (or CHIP) and did not have to forgo
doctor’s visits for themselves or their children. 

But unfortunately, at the same time that many more
families are seeking a safety valve to help them through these insecure times,
states are facing their own economic uncertainties. Decreased revenues coupled
with increased demand for services have put a strain on states, with a number
considering Medicaid cuts just when families need it the most. A number of
states have been able to hold the line due to a temporary increase in their
Medicaid matching rate that was included in the stimulus bill. Since a
condition of receiving the enhanced match was that states not cut Medicaid
eligibility (referred to as a maintenance-of-effort requirement), the funding
was critical in ensuring that the growing ranks of families needing Medicaid
could obtain that care.

The KCMU report shows however that with the FMAP increase
ending December 31, 2010, states are again looking at dramatic enrollment
increases that they cannot sustain. As I previously described on this blog,
the President’s proposed budget includes a six-month expansion of the FMAP
increase. There are also legislative proposals to do the same, including the
House’s inclusion of an extension in its “job’s bill”.  Families USA released a report this week that explains the positive impact the FMAP increase and the
maintenance-of-effort requirement has had for families, and what they could
lose if it is not extended.

Let’s think about that number again: Medicaid enrollment
increased by over 3 million individuals. That is a lot of families who are
struggling, and it is wonderful that this help is available to them (and
hopefully will continue to be). But lets also not forget the millions more who
became uninsured but were not eligible for Medicaid or CHIP. We will report
next week on the President’s health care summit for solutions put forth to
address the growing ranks of the uninsured.

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