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Medicaid Enrollment Stood at 55.4 Million at End of 2013

By John Reichard, CQ HealthBeat Editor

June 5, 2014 -- At the end of 2013 a total of 55.4 million people, or almost 1 in 5 Americans, were enrolled in Medicaid, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation analysis.

The figure provides a rough benchmark against which to measure subsequent increases in enrollment driven by the health care overhaul.

The Kaiser tally consisted of 27.9 million children, 12.7 million adults who were not elderly or disabled and 14.8 million people who were elderly or disabled. It compared enrollment tallies in December 2013 and December 2012, finding overall enrollment growth of just 1.1 percent because of an improving economy.

Medicaid enrollment picks up during economic downturns and when unemployment increases.

Expanded eligibility for Medicaid began in January 2014 under the health care law (PL 111-148, PL 111-152).

Kaiser said its snapshot provides the necessary context to understand new federal data on the Medicaid expansion that was released Wednesday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

That data showed that the number of people enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program at the end of April was 65 million.

The CMS tally did not break out Medicaid and CHIP figures separately. Kaiser showed combined Medicaid/CHIP enrollment in December of 61.1 million, including 5.8 million in the CHIP program. Kaiser said its method of counting Medicaid enrollment and that of CMS were not precisely the same.

Exactly how much Medicaid is growing because of the health law remains unclear, in no small part due to the fact that some 2.9 million people haven’t had their Medicaid applications processed since the open enrollment period began for 2014 coverage.

But it’s on a sharp upswing in those states that expanded eligibility, and efforts continue to open it up to more people in states such as Virginia that haven’t taken that step.

In an analysis released Thursday, the advocacy group Families USA said 360,000 Virginians would be able to sign up for Medicaid if the state expanded its program. Sixty percent of them, or 212,000 people, are employed but don’t make enough to afford coverage, the report said. Of the other 40 percent, roughly half include people such as students, non-working spouses, the disabled, and other people who have left the work force, the report says.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) is weighing executive action to expand Medicaid in the state.

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