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Study: Obamacare Accounts for 1 Million Medicaid Sign-Ups Study: Obamacare Accounts for 1 Million Medicaid Sign-Ups

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Health Care

Study: Obamacare Accounts for 1 Million Medicaid Sign-Ups

A health care consulting firm estimates that the health law is directly responsible for as many as 1.8 million new Medicaid enrollees.

The Medicaid program gives millions of low-income Americans access to health benefits.(Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

photo of Clara Ritger
February 5, 2014

Roughly 1.1 million to 1.8 million Americans enrolled in Medicaid because of Obamacare, a health care consulting firm finds.

Avalere Health analyzed the 2013 Obamacare enrollment reports, including those from the Health and Human Services Department, which has said that more than 6.3 million individuals were deemed eligible for Medicaid. That number includes individuals who were already enrolled in Medicaid and would continue to stay on it, because the exchange redetermined eligibility.

Avalere Health compared enrollment in October through December with enrollment in summer 2013 to account for the number of people who would have signed up for Medicaid regardless of the Affordable Care Act, and for regular churn in the program.

 

The numbers fall far short of the 8 million individuals expected to enroll in Medicaid in 2014, according to updated estimates from the Congressional Budget Office. Avalere Health estimates only 5 million Americans will join the program this year, and its model includes those states that decided not to expand Medicaid.

The majority of the new enrollees come from the 26 states including the District of Columbia that opted to go along with the Affordable Care Act's expansion of the Medicaid program to individuals with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line. Avalere Health estimates that expansion states represent some three-fourths of all new sign-ups.

"There are a host of public-welfare reasons as to why you want to get people into Medicaid," said Caroline Pearson, vice president at Avalere Health. "Medicaid is an important safety net for the low-income."

But the administration has a ways to go in its outreach efforts to get the Medicaid-eligible population covered. Bad press surrounding the launch of the federal exchange website, HealthCare.gov, is likely a contributing factor to the low enrollment totals, Pearson said, as well as sustained issues with the transfer of Medicaid applications from HealthCare.gov to state agencies.

"[Enrollment] definitely could speed up because now coverage is available," she said. "We know that people tend to not enroll in their coverage until it's actually available."

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