Friday, May 16, 2014

An Unintended but Welcome Consequence

Yes, it's too early to gloat, and I'm sure there will be more bumps along the way for the Affordable Care Act, but this Washington Post story put a smile on my face.

States that refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act are experiencing a boom in enrollees anyway, growth a new report attributes to increased awareness surrounding the health-care law.

In 17 of the 26 states that did not expand Medicaid, more than 550,000 new individuals signed up for coverage under Medicaid during the first quarter of 2014, according to Avalere Health, the company that produced the study. That represented a 2.8 percent average increase in state Medicaid rolls.

Avalere said the new enrollees were previously eligible for Medicaid but hadn’t signed up. They were likely spurred to apply for benefits after hearing about their eligibility, which the company dubbed the “woodwork effect.”

The states receive federal funding for the new enrollees through 2016, but only at standard rates. States that expanded their Medicaid rates receive more federal compensation for new enrollees.

“Many of these non-expansion states that politically oppose the ACA are now facing unexpected financial and operational pressure due to woodwork enrollment,” Caroline Pearson, Avalere’s vice president, said in a statement.

That means states that decide against accepting federal dollars to expand Medicaid are paying for their decisions.

More than 98,000 new enrollees signed up for coverage in Georgia, and more than 50,000 individuals signed up in North Carolina, Tennessee and South Carolina, the report found. Montana saw 14,100 new Medicaid patients sign up in the first three months of 2014, a 10 percent increase of the state’s Medicaid rolls. Idaho, Kansas and New Hampshire also saw their rolls grow more than 5 percent.
As I've written before, people who are eligible for benefits like SNAP don't always apply for them, whether out of pride, distrust of government, or lack of information. Medicaid has the same coverage gap. It looks like the ACA is doing its bit to move a few more people into coverage they were eligible for all along.

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