Report: Recession drives steep hike in Medicaid enrollment
<table id="img_429_text" align="left" border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="210"> <tbody> <tr> <td><img alt=" " src="" align="left" border="0" hspace="0" vspace="0" width="200" /></td> <td style="width: 10px;"></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> The recession has put more people on Medicaid and sharply increased state spending on the program, forcing state officials to cut costs even with help coming from the federal government through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).<br /><br />According to a fifty-state survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation's Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, enrollment in state Medicaid programs increased by 5.4 percent in the 2009 fiscal year (FY), well above the 3.6 percent forecast by state Medicaid directors the year before, and the highest rate increase in six years.<br /><br />For FY 2009, Medicaid spending increased by 7.9 percent, also substantially above a projected 5.8 percent increase.<br /><br />While states are feeling pressure by government officials to control Medicaid spending, a growing number of people continue to apply for its services. Medicaid now offers coverage to 60 million Americans. With the unemployment rate creeping closer to 10 percent, the jobless rate has had negative impact on state revenues, making it more difficult for states to pay their share of Medicaid spending increases, according to the study. For every 1 percent of the nation’s unemployed, 3 to 4 percent of state revenues will decrease, resulting in approximately one million more Americans’ enrollment in Medicaid or the State Children's Health Insurance Program.<br /><br /> If not for increased funds made available for healthcare by the ARRA, Medicaid would be in even worse shape, according to Kaiser. The federal money from the ARRA will provide approximately $87 billion to states from Oct. 1, 2008 through Dec. 31, 2010. States will use the funds to fix overall budgets and Medicaid budget shortfalls, avoid cuts to insurance providers and increase benefits and peoples’ eligibility for enrollment. According to the report, the funds have been able to reach states quickly and help support increased Medicaid enrollment.<br /><br /> At the moment, several legislative proposals in Congress may also help expand Medicaid. For example, under the healthcare reform proposal that recently came out of the Senate Finance Committee, Medicaid eligibility for parents, children, pregnant women and childless adults would be standardized at 133 percent of the federal poverty level.<br /><br /> Currently, most states are doing their part by implementing at least one new Medicaid policy to control spending in FY 2009 and 2010. Thirty-three states have already cut or frozen provider rates. Other states also cut or modified existing benefits, most commonly targeting dental and vision services. The report noted that cuts have helped lower state spending, but Medicaid enrollees have suffered.<br />