Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Estimate: ACA Medicaid expansion enrollment has increased by more than 2 million in the pandemic

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Ever since I was a child -- okay, ever since the ACA was a child -- I've been reading that 12 million Medicaid enrollees were rendered newly eligible by the ACA Medicaid expansion, which extended eligibility to adults with incomes up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level (e.g., $1468 per month for an individual, $1303/month for a family of four). That's been the case since July 2016, rounding up from 11.6 million at that point. In June 2019, the last month tallied by CMS, enrollment of the "newly eligible" stood at 12.0 million.

A larger number -- 15.3 million in June 2019 -- are rendered eligible by ACA criteria and not by standard pre-ACA criteria. But 3.3 million of them are in states that had expanded adult eligibility to at least 100% FPL pre-ACA*. The federal government pays the ACA's enhanced "match rate" of 90% of costs for this larger group, classified as Group VIII.

Nationally, total Medicaid enrollment shrank by about 5% from early 2017 to early 2020.  Then came the pandemic.  As the economy crashed, Medicaid enrollment surged. It has probably increased by more than 6 million from the end of February through August. Here I'd like to venture an estimate, based on the enrollment data below: about 2.2 million of the new enrollees are ACA expansion enrollees. That would put current Group VIII enrollment at about 17.5 million.

If we assume that 78% of the new Group VIII enrollees are "newly eligible," that comes to about 1.7 million, raising current "newly eligible" enrollment to about 13.7 million. These enrollees stand to lose their coverage if the Supreme Court voids the ACA in its entirely.  And new enrollment triggered by the ACA expansion is far from over. In my 28-state tally (second chart here), the increase from July to August, 1.5%, is the same as from June to July.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

At The American Prospect: Medicaid, the ACA's mainstay

As in 2018, political warfare over healthcare -- now escalating in the wake of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death -- is focused on "protection for people with pre-existing conditions." While the war of words focuses on rules governing the individual market for health insurance, which insures about 3% of the population, the real fight is over the extent to which the federal government will subsidize health insurance for those who lack access to employer-sponsored insures. The pre-existing condition that matters most is low income.

The main engine by which the ACA has reduced the uninsured population is Medicaid. Obscuring this fact distorts our political debate as well as federal and state government response to the pandemic.  I made that case in 2018 in USA Today, and today I've made it again in The American Prospect:

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Medicaid expansion enrollment far outstrips marketplace enrollment and is the chief bulwark against huge spikes in uninsured population

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As millions lose jobs and health insurance during the pandemic, I have railed against ACA marketplaces for submerging information about Medicaid* and focusing their messaging almost exclusively on the private plan marketplace.

In expansion states, at least twice as many of the newly uninsured will be eligible for Medicaid as for subsidized marketplace coverage, according to estimates by the Urban Institute and Kaiser Family Foundation. You'd never know it to look at most state-based marketplaces, and to a lesser extent,

The exchanges were conceived primarily as private-plan marketplaces and still view routing people to the ACA's Qualified Health Plans as their primary -- almost sole -- mission. But in expansion states, they also qualify or enroll applicants into Medicaid where appropriate, and it's high time they recognized Medicaid enrollment (or routing) as a core mission.

The Medicaid expansion has been the primary engine for ACA-triggered reductions in the nation's uninsured population. To illustrate the point, I've set ACA Medicaid expansion enrollment next to marketplace enrollment in the 34 states (including DC) that had enacted the expansion as of June 2019, the last month for which CMS has recorded expansion enrollment data. Nationally, Medicaid enrollees who fit the ACA's expansion enrollment criteria outnumber marketplace enrollees by a 3-to-1 margin, subject to a couple of caveats at bottom. Links to data sources are in the headings.

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

What's the matter with California? The mystery of flat Medi-Cal enrollment, revisited

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As part of a May budget revision in California, the state Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) projected that in response to job losses triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic, enrollment in Medi-Cal, the state Medicaid program, would increase  to 14.5 million by July -- roughly a 16% increase.

According to the state's current tally, from February to July enrollment in fact increased by just .02%, from 12.48 million to 12.50 million. Twenty-five other states that have reported enrollment through July show an 8.6% increase since February.  The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Service's most recent 50-state tally shows a 3.4% increase from February through May.

What gives? Why has Medicaid enrollment in California so far been essentially flat in the months since Covid-19 triggered mass unemployment?*

The DHCS cites several potential factors potentially inhibiting enrollment:

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Pandemic Medicaid enrollment powers into August

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Update, 10/4: see this post for 32-state enrollment through August (California included).

Update, 9/27: I'd like to venture a top-line estimate for Medicaid enrollment through August.  In the 25 states I can track through August (I've added Mississippi), enrollment is up 10.5% Aug-Feb. In tracking through July, California's near-flat enrollment drops total growth Feb-July by 1.9% percentage points. Assuming continued weak growth in CA in August, let's assume 8.6% enrollment growth since February. According to CMS's February tally, that would peg total enrollment through August at 77,293,798 -- call it 77.3 million, up about 6 million from February. (Preliminary August numbers for California are in, and they show a drop, which will probably be adjusted up to a very modest increase, based on recent history.)
      Of course, enrollment growth in the twenty states not tracked below could be different from the that of the tracked states. It's just occurred to me that I can tally the growth in those states through May, the last month tallied by CMS, and compare it to growth through May in the states tracked below. Then again, growth in many states surged after May -- but by definition this near-real-time tracking is tentative. Stay tuned. [Update: increase through May for the 20 states not included in my July chart is essentially identical to the 50-state increase excluding California -- 3.6% vs 3.7%. As of May, California pulled down the national average to 3.2%, from 3.7% excluding California. That's a 13.5% decrease in the increase, to put it awkwardly. Shaving the same percentage off the 10.5% August increase recorded for 25 states below suggests a 9.1% national increase since February and a national total upwards of 77.6 million enrolled in Medicaid.

Update, 9/22: California wrecks the average for July. Minus California, states below are up 8.8% through July; CA knocks that down to 6.9%. California has also posted a raw total for August that's below July's, but that total will doubtless be adjusted up, as July's has been. Also, South Dakota is up 1.3% July to August.
      The California monthly totals below were supplied by the state Dept. of Health Care Services. Raw totals recorded in two public state databases (1, 2) are slightly different from these totals. California deems the data preliminary for a full 12 months, and the state's monthly totals have changed considerably in the period in which I've been tracking. Growth remains surprisingly low, however.

Earlier updates at bottom.

Original post: (9/2/20): A handful of states have posted Medicaid enrollment totals as of the end August (or, in the case of New York, as of mid-August or beyond*). The main takeaway is that growth in Medicaid enrollment triggered by the pandemic does not appear to be slowing down.  In the states charted below, enrollment grew by 1.5% from June to July. In the four states that have reported through all or most of August below, enrollment also increased 1.5% over the prior month. [Update 9/4: Minnesota up 1.2%; 5 states up 1.4% July-August.]

The sustained Medicaid enrollment growth five months after the first pandemic-induced lockdowns  should not be a surprise. As I've noted before, Medicaid enrollment is a lagging indicator. A United Hospital Fund study found that in the Great Recession of 2007-2009, Medicaid enrollment in New York peaked seven months after unemployment peaked. Robin Rudowitz of the Kaiser Family Foundation tells me that Medicaid enrollment continued to climb nationwide after the Great Recession officially ended, and that state Medicaid directors whom Kaiser surveyed at the end of April anticipated increases extending throughout the year.

Pandemic Medicaid Enrollment in 31 States (updated 9/30)
February through July or August 2020
Expansion states in blue; nonexpansion states in red; Medicaid to 100% FPL in purple
Totals as of the end of each month