Obama administration urges states to embrace Medicaid expansion


The Obama administration is urging states to embrace ObamaCare's expansion of Medicaid by pointing to a rise in enrollments since the law's insurance marketplaces launched last fall.

In the first release of its kind, federal health officials announced Friday that at least 3 million additional people signed up for Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program in February compared with September, before the exchanges began.

The heightened enrollment can be explained by the Medicaid expansion for low-income adults and ObamaCare's "no wrong door" policy, which directed eligible applicants to the Medicaid program through the private insurance marketplaces.

States that adopted the expansion before February saw Medicaid and CHIP enrollment rise by 8.3 percent compared with months prior to October, Friday's report said.

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen SebeliusKathleen SebeliusMr. President, let markets help save Medicare IRS Tax Day glitch exposes antiquated tech infrastructure Trump administration's reforms could make welfare work again MORE argued in a blog post that the expansion is a good deal for states because the federal government covers the vast majority of the cost.

"States that have expanded Medicaid saw a much more dramatic increase in Medicaid enrollment than states that have not," Sebelius wrote.

"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."

The announcement signals a shift in focus by the administration following an open enrollment period that saw more than 7.1 million people enroll in private health plans on the exchanges.

Now, officials are back to pushing Republican governors to accept the Medicaid expansion over objections from fiscal hawks who feel the program is too expensive.

Democrats are also hoping the issue will be relevant in November's midterm elections.

The White House consistently updates an online map of states that remain opposed, estimating that 5.7 million uninsured people are losing out as a result.

As of this month, 26 states and the District of Columbia have chosen to expand their Medicaid rolls under the healthcare law.

The expansion allows people making 133 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $32,000 for a family of four, to obtain health insurance from states that accept it.

The federal government covers the entire cost for the first three year and no less than 90 percent after that, making the option attractive to governors and hospitals that care for large uninsured populations.

Several GOP-led states are pursuing alternative ways to expand Medicaid, such as using federal dollars to buy private coverage for low-income people.

But many Republican governors argue that any expansion will be bad for budgets in the long term.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) argued in November that expanding Medicaid is like "putting 1,000 more people on the Titanic when you knew what was going to happen."

"Whether somebody took it or didn’t, I’ll leave it up to them to justify to their constituents why," he said of other GOP governors who have accepted the expansion, according to the New York Times.