NEWS: Washington Post: In first month, the vast majority of Obamacare sign-ups are in Medicaid

November 1, 2013

New Medicaid Enrollment Figures Add Urgency to Energy and Commerce Committee Letter to CMS

The Washington Post reports that “The first month of the new health law’s rollout reveals an unexpected pattern in several states: a crush of people applying for an expansion of Medicaid and a trickle of sign-ups for private insurance.” Energy and Commerce Committee leaders wrote to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner on October 24 “to request the most updated information on the timing of account transfers to states, including responses to those specific requests which seek to ensure the program is protected from any hurried eligibility determinations or improper enrollment due to rushed timelines and flawed operations.”  The letter explains, “the state policy head for the National Association for Mediciad Directors, Kathleen Nolan, expressed growing state frustration with the process.” In light of this report that the volume of applications for Medicaid is higher than anticipated it is all the more essential that CMS address the committee’s concerns.

October 31, 2013

In first month, the vast majority of Obamacare sign-ups are in Medicaid

The first month of the new health law’s rollout reveals an unexpected pattern in several states: a crush of people applying for an expansion of Medicaid and a trickle of sign-ups for private insurance.

This early imbalance — in some places, nine out of 10 enrollees are in Medicaid — has taken some experts by surprise. The Affordable Care Act, which expanded Medicaid to cover millions of the poorest Americans who couldn’t otherwise afford coverage, envisions a more even split with an expanded, robust private market.

“When we first saw the numbers, everyone’s eyes kind of bugged out,” said Matt Salo, who runs the National Association of Medicaid Directors. “Of the people walking through the door, 90 percent are on Medicaid. We’re thinking, what planet is this happening on?”

The yawning gap between public and private enrollment is handing Republicans yet another line of criticism against President Obama’s health overhaul — that the law is primarily becoming an expansion of a costly entitlement program.

Supporters, however, caution against reading too much into the early numbers. Some of the states that set up their own exchanges, including Maryland, are suffering Web site glitches similar to those of the national system, and that is delaying private plan enrollments.

But if this trend continues, experts say it could prove costly for states that will have to help pay for some of these new Medicaid enrollees. It would widen disparities between the states that opted to expand the entitlement program and those that have not.

Low enrollment in private insurance, meanwhile, could increase premiums as it would likely indicate that only sick people, who really need coverage, were signing up. ...

Read the complete story online here.

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