Record of 1 in 4 Americans now covered by Medicaid, CHIP

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Dive brief:

  • A record one in four Americans now covered by Medicaid and the children’s health insurance program, following a sharp increase in enrollments during the coronavirus pandemic, according to new government data.
  • More than 80.5 million people now have health insurance coverage through social protection programs. Nearly 10 million people registered between February of last year, a month before the start of the national COVID-19 emergency, and January 2021 – a 14% jump from old registration statistics.
  • Medicaid accounted for the bulk of new registrants. The Biden administration attributed the surge in enrollments to stronger federal incentives during the public emergency, and officials praised Medicaid for keeping Americans insured during the economic upheaval of COVID-19.

Dive overview:

Medicaid and CHIP are now the largest source of health coverage in the United States, surpassing the approximately 63 million people covered by Medicare.

Senior health officials in the Biden administration, HHS secretary Xavier Becerra, and CMS administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, said the enrollment data illustrates how Medicaid and CHIP have been a buoy. rescue for millions of people during the pandemic.

“This report reminds us of how Medicaid continues to be a vital program that provides access to care for tens of millions of children and adults,” Becerra said in a statement. “This pandemic has taught us that now more than ever, we must work to strengthen Medicaid and make it available when and where it’s needed using the unprecedented investments provided by Congress. “

Rebecca Pifer / Healthcare Dive, CMS data

Most notably, the Families First Coronavirus Act, passed in March last year, granted states a temporary 6.2% increase in federal matching funds in the Medicaid program, on condition that this ensures that eligible beneficiaries remain registered and covered during the national emergency.

CMS has also given states a number of regulatory flexibilities to shape their Medicaid programs during COVID-19.

However, millions of enrollees could be taken off Medicaid lists next year as states resume eligibility checks, which were suspended during COVID-19. Once the national emergency expires, expected at the end of this year, states will comb through their Medicaid lists to determine eligibility, removing beneficiaries who are no longer eligible due to a change in income.

Patient advocates have expressed concerns that people are being excluded from the program due to an administrative error or misinformation as states scramble to restart a two-year-suspended process.

The Biden administration said it was focusing on sustaining the coverage gains seen during COVID-19. The HHS is developing a rule to streamline the Medicaid and CHIP application, eligibility determination, enrollment and renewal processes, according to a list of current rules published by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Private insurers are also encouraged to maintain Medicaid earnings, as the balloon safety net program contributes significant amounts of revenue. More states are contracting payers to manage their Medicaid programs – currently, seven in 10 Medicaid registrants participate in plans managed by an insurance company, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. This has especially benefited payers with big government business books like Centene and Molina.

Of the approximately 9.9 million people who joined Medicaid and CHIP from February 2020 to January 2021, approximately 9.7 million joined Medicaid and approximately 124,000 joined CHIP. At the end of January, there were about 73.8 million people in Medicaid and 6.8 million in CHIP.

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