“Hundreds of thousands of Americans lost their Medicaid benefits in April, as emergency pandemic provisions that kept people enrolled over the past few years began to end. The coverage losses are going to only grow.
In Florida, nearly 250,000 people lost Medicaid coverage in April, as states began a process to check whether everyone currently enrolled in Medicaid still meets the eligibility criteria. About 73,000 people were also deemed ineligible in Arkansas. Another 53,000 had their coverage terminated in Indiana and 40,000 were removed from Medicaid in Arizona.
Policy experts and advocates warned before the eligibility checks began that people who are still eligible for Medicaid could lose their insurance due to administrative problems, such as not receiving mail from the state or not returning documentation to confirm they are still eligible. Now the early evidence suggests that’s exactly what is happening.”
“There is a certain logic to Republicans’ commitment to pursuing Medicaid cuts: Social Security and Medicare are universal programs. Everyone pays in while they work, and then enjoys the benefits when they retire. Medicaid, on the other hand, is targeted to people who have low incomes. Republicans argue that this program, like food stamps and cash welfare, discourages people from seeking work, since they only qualify for benefits if their income is below a certain threshold.
“Assistance programs are supposed to be temporary, not permanent,” McCarthy said. “A hand up, not a handout. A bridge to independence, not a barrier.”
The problem is their diagnosis may be wrong. For starters, about two-thirds of the people covered by Medicaid — those who are children, elderly, or disabled — are usually exempted from work requirement proposals. Working-age adults who are expected to meet them can end up losing coverage even if they are attempting to satisfy it, if they have irregular work hours for example, or if they have trouble filing the necessary paperwork. One estimate of a Medicaid work requirement proposal in Michigan found that only about one-quarter of the people expected to lose their coverage were considered “out of work,” meaning they could work but weren’t. The rest were already working, retired, caring for a loved home at home, or unable to work for some other reason.
In Arkansas, where implementation of a work requirement was eventually blocked by a court order, nearly 17,000 people lost coverage after the requirement was put in place. Analyses later found that Medicaid beneficiaries had not started working more or earning more money as a result of the policy. Instead, lots of people got kicked off Medicaid, but it didn’t lead to an improvement in their economic status; they simply became uninsured.”
“Perhaps the greatest success of the American health care system these last few benighted years is this surprising fact: The uninsured rate has reached a historic low of about 8 percent.
That’s thanks in part to the pandemic — or, more precisely, the slew of emergency provisions that the government enacted in response to the Covid crisis.
One policy was likely the single largest factor. Over the past three years, under an emergency pandemic measure, states have stopped double-checking if people who are enrolled in Medicaid are still eligible for its coverage. If you were enrolled in Medicaid in March 2020, or if you became eligible at any point during the pandemic, you have remained eligible the entire time no matter what, even if your income later went up.
But in April, that will end — states will be re-checking every Medicaid enrollee’s eligibility, an enormous administrative undertaking that will put health insurance coverage for millions of Americans at risk.
The Biden administration estimates upward of 15 million people — one-sixth of the roughly 90 million Americans currently receiving Medicaid benefits — could lose coverage, a finding that independent analysts pretty much agree with. Those are coverage losses tantamount to a major economic downturn: By comparison, from 2007 to 2009, amid the worst economic downturn of most Americans’ lifetimes, an estimated 9 million Americans lost their insurance.”
High-Deductible Health Plans Reduce Health Care Cost And Utilization, Including Use Of Needed Preventive Services Rajender Agarwal et al. 10 2017. HealthAffairs. https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/10.1377/hlthaff.2017.0610 Does High Cost-Sharing Slow the Long-term Growth Rate of Health Spending? Evidence from the States Molly Frean and Mark
“The Affordable Care Act offered states a huge infusion of federal money to expand Medicaid eligibility to low-income adults, and about 30 states took that deal right away in 2014. Since then, new medical debt in those states has fallen 44 percent, a dramatically bigger drop than was seen in the states that refused to expand the program over the same period. Those states showed only a 10 percent decline.”
“nonmedical debt had fallen by similar amounts in expansion and non-expansion states over the time period they studied, 2009 to 2020, strengthening the case that Medicaid expansion was the difference with medical debt.”
“In states that expanded Medicaid, both the lowest- and highest-income groups saw their medical debt drop after expansion, but the amount of medical debt added annually decreased much more for the former (by $180, from $458 to $278) than the latter (by $35, from $95 to $60).
In non-expansion states, on the other hand, the lowest-income group averaged a $206 average increase in new medical debt, from $630 to $836. But the highest-income bracket still saw a small decline in new debt for medical care.”
“Those states are concentrated in the South. Eight of the 12 non-expansion states are in the region. Nearly one in four Southerners have some medical debt in collections listed on their credit report, compared to 10.8 percent of people in the Northeast and 12.7 percent in the West.”
“For many low-income people in the US, getting insured isn’t enough to get health care: Patients with Medicaid can struggle to find a doctor willing to take their health insurance.
And this happens in large part because, for doctors and providers, billing Medicaid is a pain.
A recent study by researchers from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, the University of Chicago, and the Federal Reserve Bank in San Francisco found providers run into more obstacles when trying to bill Medicaid than they do with other insurers, and that these administrative hurdles explain the access problems experienced by Medicaid patients as much as the program’s payment rates.”
“About 19 percent of the initial claims submitted to Medicaid are not paid in full. For Medicare and for the private insurers, that share is much lower: 8 percent and 5 percent, respectively.
The health care providers then must invest time and money to sort out any rejected or disputed claims.”
“the study makes a strong case that solving access problems for Medicaid patients does not require jacking up the program’s payment rates, a difficult sell in a time of strained state budgets, in the country already with the world’s highest health care costs.
The researchers instead present this solution to the problem they identified: “To increase access to care, regulators could implement or require a simpler, cheaper administration of payment processes, without raising prices.”
So if we simply made it easier for doctors to receive payment for the services they provide, it could make a big difference for Medicaid patients.”
“nearly a decade after the Supreme Court ruled that states could choose whether to expand their Medicaid programs, the fight over whether to do so is far from over. So far, 38 states and Washington, DC, have expanded Medicaid, covering nearly 15 million people. In the dozen states that have not, 4 million people are uninsured who would receive Medicaid coverage if their state expanded eligibility under the ACA. More than 95 percent live in the South, they are disproportionately Black, and many are not eligible for subsidies to buy private coverage on the ACA markets.”
“The state, which has no income tax, pulls about a third of its budget from the federal government, a higher share than many other states, he said. That’s partly due to agricultural assistance and federal aid disbursed after natural disasters, but also because Texas has a large share of enrollees in entitlement programs like Medicaid.”