HHS touts jump in Medicaid eligibility

The number of people eligible for Medicaid jumped again in January, according to federal health officials.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reported Friday that more than 8.9 million people were approved to receive either Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) between October and January.


Roughly 2.6 million of these verdicts occurred in January, up from 2.3 million in December and fewer than 2 million in November.

The 8.9 million figure includes those who received renewals and were therefore eligible before ObamaCare. The administration has been criticized for not breaking down how many people have been determined eligible for Medicaid solely because of the Affordable Care Act.

Still, HHS said the bulk of determinations came in states that opted to expand their Medicaid programs using mostly federal dollars under ObamaCare. That expansion had been a mandatory part of the Affordable Care Act, but the Supreme Court made it optional.

“The number of Medicaid determinations across the country is encouraging, but more work is left to do to ensure that the millions of uninsured Americans eligible for these programs gain coverage,” the department wrote in a blog post.

HHS Secretary Kathleen SebeliusKathleen SebeliusWorking for lasting change Former HHS secretary Sebelius joins marijuana industry group More than 200 Obama officials sign letter supporting Biden's stimulus plan MORE lashed out this week at the governors who have so far refused to expand Medicaid, accusing them of  “playing politics with people’s lives.”

Sebelius said that so far 31 states — nearly a dozen of them run by Republican governors — have either accepted the Medicaid expansion under ObamaCare outright or worked with the administration to design an expansion that caters to a particular state's specific needs.

However, the private-option workaround HHS has approved for some states has run into roadblocks in some state legislatures, despite agreements between the governors of those states and HHS on a way forward.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government pays 100 percent of the costs of the state’s expansion for the first year, and most states wouldn’t pay more than 10 percent in future years.

Republican governors and legislators argue the policy would ultimately drain state coffers by increasing Medicaid rolls, and they fear the federal government won’t keep its funding promise, leaving them on the hook.

“Not only is expanding Medicaid coverage helping many people gain health coverage, it’s a good deal for states,” the department said Friday. “Coverage for newly eligible adult beneficiaries is fully federally paid for under the Affordable Care Act for the first three years, and never less than 90 percent for the years following.”