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Medicaid Expansion Surges in 2020, Highlighting Its Essential Place In American Health Care

By June 22, 2021No Comments

Yesterday, the New York Times reported that Medicaid enrollment surpassed 80 million nationwide, meaning one in four Americans are now covered by the program. For decades, Medicaid has been a vital source of coverage for millions, including seniors, children, women, and people of color. And amid vast economic insecurity and widespread coverage losses during the pandemic, Medicaid has once again proven to be a critical safety net, ensuring access to quality, affordable health care for millions more. 

The Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion in particular has helped more Americans get covered. Research confirms that Medicaid expansion increases access to care, improves financial security, and leads to better health outcomes. However, in 12 states, Republican leaders have rejected Medicaid expansion, blocking millions of people from access to coverage. At least 2.4 million people of color, 500,000 people with disabilities and almost a million older Americans who are currently uninsured could gain Medicaid coverage if the remaining states adopted Medicaid expansion. Recent reporting from The New York Times highlights what states have gained, and have to gain, from the surge in Medicaid enrollment.

Medicaid’s Growing Role

One in four Americans now has health coverage through Medicaid. 10 million Americans enrolled in Medicaid in 2020, bringing the national program to a record total of 80 million participants. This trend represents Medicaid’s crucial role within the American health system.

Medicaid holdout states are denying coverage to millions. 12 states have refused Medicaid expansion, blocking essential health coverage for four million uninsured Americans. Increases in access to health care play a critical role in improving health outcomes.

10 Million Americans Joined Medicaid In 2020. Over a 12 month period, Medicaid enrollment grew by 14 percent. This figure includes CHIP enrollment, which covers the children of individuals who cannot afford coverage, but do not qualify for Medicaid. 

Medicaid Is A Pillar Of The U.S. Health System. Medicaid’s rapid growth in 2020 illustrates the program’s crucial role in American healthcare. Once viewed as a safety net, Medicaid has evolved to demonstrate American’s need and desire for affordable health coverage. CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said the increased enrollment “tells us that Medicaid is a critical program for American families.” 

Blocking Medicaid Expansion Is Hurting Millions. There are currently 12 states that have rejected federal funding to expand their Medicaid programs and cover adults up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Republican leaders in these states have blocked at least 2.4 million people of color, 500,000 people with disabilities, and nearly one million older Americans who are currently uninsured, but could gain coverage if Medicaid expansion was adopted. 

Americans Favor Expansion. Three recent holdout states, Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah, expanded Medicaid in 2020 under the direction of voters through ballot initiatives and experienced a rapid surge of enrollment. Next month, Oklahoma will finalize its Medicaid expansion program.