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FACT SHEET: Medicaid Is A Lifeline For People With Disabilities

By April 22, 2024No Comments

April marks the 7th annual Medicaid Awareness Month. Medicaid is a vital source of care for people with disabilities across the country and helps ensure they can access quality care. Up to 1 in 4 Americans have some type of disability. The program also provides half of all long-term care in the United States, which includes essential home- and community-based services for people with disabilities. Protecting access to Medicaid is essential for ensuring that people with disabilities get the care they need. 

Medicaid is a popular, lifesaving program, but Republicans want to cut it and rip coverage away from millions of hardworking families. Voters agree that it is important to prevent harmful cuts to Medicaid that would reduce health care access. Yet the latest GOP scheme slashes trillions from Medicaid and would throw millions of people off their coverage through block granting and burdensome work reporting requirements. These requirements are especially cruel for Americans with disabilities who may not be able to work long hours or secure a health-related exemption from the requirement. Republicans also won’t quit their mission to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicaid expansion, putting health care for millions of people in jeopardy.  

By The Numbers 

  • 1 In 3 Medicaid Enrollees Have A Disability. One-third of Medicaid enrollees report having a disability, and 11 percent of enrollees qualified for Medicaid based on a disability determination.
  • Up To 1 In 4 U.S. Adults Have A Disability. Up to 27 percent of American adults have some type of disability. Medicaid covers 43 percent of nonelderly adults with disabilities, including adults with physical disabilities, developmental disabilities, brain injuries, and mental illnesses.
  • Over 10 Million Non-Elderly Adults Are Enrolled in Medicaid Due To At Least One Disability. More than 10 million people under age 65 enrolled in Medicaid qualified as a result of a disability determination. Other individuals with disabilities may qualify for Medicaid due to age, pregnancy, or income.
  • Medicaid Covers Half Of All Long-Term Care. The Medicaid program provides half of all long-term care in the United States, which includes essential home- and community-based services for people with disabilities.
  • Millions Lose Medicaid Coverage In Unwinding Post-Pandemic. As Medicaid transitions back to its pre-pandemic eligibility and enrollment rules, too many people are losing coverage because of the carelessness and callousness of certain Republican governors who are terminating coverage for people who may still be eligible. Americans with disabilities are at an increased risk of losing Medicaid coverage due to the renewal process barrier, regardless of whether individuals remain eligible.

Americans with disabilities have faced barriers to achieving and maintaining optimal health. They are 1.4x more likely to have obesity, 2x more likely to smoke, 2x more likely to have diabetes, and 2.8x more likely to have heart disease. Yet 1 in 4 report having an unmet health care need because of cost in the past year and the same proportion report not having a usual health care provider. Medicaid enrollees with disabilities have access to regular preventive care and treatment for chronic illnesses and conditions. States are also required to provide key services for adults, such as hospital stays, physician, lab, and x-ray services, and nursing home care.

In 2010, the ACA opened the door for states to expand Medicaid, and the results are piling in: Medicaid expansion works. In addition to providing coverage for about 24 million people, expansion has resulted in healthier people, communities, and economies. Study after study shows that Medicaid expansion increases access to care, improves financial security, and leads to better health outcomes for people with disabilities. 

People With Disabilities Rely On Medicaid Expansion For Coverage. More than six in 10 nonelderly Medicaid adults with disabilities do not receive SSI, meaning that they qualify for Medicaid on another basis (such as income, or as parents in non-expansion states). Medicaid is a significant source of health care coverage for these adults, providing critical access to care for serious health conditions and supporting those in the workforce.

Medicaid Expansion Helps Adults With Disabilities Gain Access To Affordable Care Without Having To Wait. Medicaid expansion helps adults with disabilities gain quicker access to coverage without waiting for a disability determination, which can take years. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicaid expansion has allowed people gain coverage who previously were not eligible for coverage and otherwise would have been uninsured. Many uninsured individuals with pre-existing conditions who would not have qualified for Social Security Disability Insurance yet are also eligible for coverage under Medicaid expansion.

Medicaid Expansion Has Improved Health Care Services For People With Disabilities. According to the same 2021 study, Medicaid expansion often improves the services provided to people with disabilities, as states have been able to provide better coverage of critical services including specialized treatments and coverage for behavioral health concerns and other chronic conditions.

Medicaid Expansion Reduces Out-Of-Pocket Health Care Spending, Which Is Especially Important For People With Disabilities Who Often Have Limited Incomes. A majority, or nearly 85 percent, of adults with disabilities who have Medicaid coverage earn annual incomes of less than 200 percent of the FPL, $12,060 for an individual, making access to affordable health care even more essential. In 2022, CMS adopted rules to lower maximum out-of-pocket costs by $400.

Medicaid Is One Of The Most Effective Anti-Poverty Programs, Particularly For People With Disabilities. Medicaid reduces poverty by limiting out-of-pocket spending and expanding state-level Medicaid programs.  The average out-of-pocket spending decreased in states that expanded Medicaid. The poverty-reducing effects were greatest for adults with disabilities, elderly, children, and racial/ethnic minorities.

Medicaid Expansion Has Increased Employment For People With Disabilities. According to a 2021 study, individuals with disabilities living in Medicaid expansion states are more likely to be employed than those living in non-expansion states. In expansion states, people with disabilities have seen increased health coverage and employment rates compared to non-expansion states. On the other hand, Republican-backed work reporting requirements reduce employment and can jeopardize health care for people with disabilities because definitions are outdated and don’t accommodate many types of disabilities that affect peoples’ ability to work. 

Hundreds of Thousands of Americans With Disabilities Are Stuck Without Coverage In States That Have Refused to Expand Medicaid. 10 states have refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), stranding many adults with low incomes in the Medicaid coverage gap. As a result, over 265,000 Americans with disabilities with incomes below the federal poverty level are ineligible for Medicaid or ACA marketplace assistance in these states. Over half of these individuals reside in Texas or Florida, and adults with disabilities form at least 20 percent of those in the Medicaid coverage gap in Alabama, South Carolina, Kansas, Tennessee, and Wyoming. 


Medicaid Helps People With Disabilities Access Comprehensive, Consistent Long-Term Care. Medicaid beneficiaries with disabilities comprised 95 percent of the fees for service of long-term care services while making up less than 25 percent of people who are enrolled in the program. 

  • Medicaid Provides Half Of Long-Term Care In The U.S. Medicaid provides half the nation’s long-term care – a broad category encompassing a critical array of services available for people with prolonged illnesses, disabilities, and other chronic conditions. Medicaid providers and consumers have worked to broaden access to care in at-home and community-based settings, where many seniors and people with disabilities would prefer to live.

Increased Medicaid Funding For Caregivers Benefits People With Disabilities. The Biden-Harris administration recently finalized new rules that require Medicaid to provide increased funding for home care services, a critical component of care for millions of people with disabilities who rely on care workers to meet their basic needs while living in their homes and communities.

Protect Our Care will continue to host events and activities throughout Medicaid Awareness Month, which includes the following themes each week:

  • Week 1: Republican threats to Medicaid. In the first week of Medicaid Awareness Month, Protect Our Care focused on how Republicans are actively seeking cuts to Medicaid while GOP leaders in 10 states continue to block Medicaid expansion. 
  • Week 2: Medicaid helps people of color and rural Americans. In week two, Protect Our Care highlighted how Medicaid is a critical tool to expand access to coverage, which together with policies that address other social and structural determinants of health, narrow stark disparities in health care, improve families’ financial security, and make people healthier. 
  • Week 3: Medicaid helps women and kids. For week three, Protect Our Care brought attention to the vital role of Medicaid for mothers and children across the country.
  • Week 4: Medicaid helps seniors and people with disabilities. The final week focuses on how Medicaid helps seniors and people with disabilities access lifesaving care.