Feds Say 3 Million Now Have Medicaid Through Obamacare

Image: A man is silhouetted behind a sign at an Affordable Care Act outreach event hosted by Planned Parenthood for the Latino community in Los Angeles, California
The Obama administration says 3 million extra people have signed up for Medicaid since the new health insurance exchanges opened in October.JONATHAN ALCORN / Reuters

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The Obama administration declared another victory Friday, saying that 3 million extra people have signed up for Medicaid or the related Children’s Health Insurance Program since the new health insurance exchanges opened in October.

That’s on top of the 7.1 million that the administration says bought private insurance on the exchanges, which are one of the main features of the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

The new figures help fill in the blanks on one of the main measures of whether the law is working — how many people get signed up.

The law aims to get health insurance to the estimated 16 percent of Americans who don’t have it, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. One of the main ways is through private insurance bought on the exchanges, heavily subsidized by the federal government for most people.

The other is through making Medicaid available to people earning up to about 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $14,800 for single people and $31,000 for a family of four.

On Thursday, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Urban Institute issued a joint report estimating that 5.4 million people who did not have insurance before got private insurance on the exchanges.

Medicaid, the joint state-federal health insurance plan for the low-income, covers 62 million Americans, or about 20 percent of the population. In some states it’s restricted to children and pregnant women, in others it covers the poor and some disabled, as well.

The Congressional Budget Office projects that 9 million extra people will eventually enroll in Medicaid in 2014.

The Supreme Court ruled that states could choose whether to expand Medicaid and so far 20 states have refused to, all of them controlled by Republican legislatures. Twenty-five states have expanded, and five still have not decided.

States refusing to expand say it attracts people who were eligible before but who did not apply, and they cannot afford to administer an expanded program. They also oppose spending any more federal money when there's a deficit.

The Health and Human Services Department says states are losing millions in federal subsidies by not making Medicaid available to more people.

“There's no deadline for states to expand, so we're going to keep working with the remaining states as they decide to come on board,” HHS says. The federal government will pay the full cost of enrolling anyone newly eligible under the Affordable Care Act until 2017, and will pay 90 percent or more after that.