A recent government report revealed that nearly 10 million Americans enrolled in Medicaid during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a record 80 million people – one-quarter of the population – covered under the public health program. This represents a 14% increase over the 12-month period ending January 31, 2020, and includes the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which covers children whose parents’ incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid but too low to allow them to afford alternative coverage.
“This tells us that Medicaid is a critical program for American families,” Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services administrator at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, told The New York Times. “What we’ve seen during this pandemic is that people want access to affordable health insurance, and how important it is during a public health crisis.”
Medicaid, which was expanded in most U.S. states under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2014, covers all adults with income up to 138% of the poverty level, or about $17,420 per individual this year. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress provided a 6.2% increase in Medicaid funding to prevent states from disenrolling patients or tightening eligibility requirements.
Twelve states, including Florida and Texas, declined to expand Medicaid under the ACA. Utah, Idaho, and Nebraska voted to expand their programs last year, and Oklahoma did the same in July.
During the pandemic, adult enrollment in Medicaid grew twice as fast as child enrollment, suggesting that job losses related to the public health crisis may have left many adults newly eligible for the program.