The Triumph of the Medicaid program

One big health care story in the wake of the failure to repeal Obamacare is the triumph of the Medicaid program, both in New York and the nation.  Quinnipiac released a poll a few days before the Republican setback showing broad public opposition to the repeal, and one question asked the American public if it supported or opposed cutting Federal funding for the Medicaid program: the answer -No-opposed- by a margin of 74-22. The breakouts by group were extraordinary- Whites opposed cutting 72-23, nonwhites,82-17. Republicans opposed cutting by 54-39. Non-college whites opposed cutting the program 66-29. The poll included over 1000 registered voters.

When Governor Cuomo announced in January that Obamacare repeal would result in the loss of health coverage for 2.7 million New Yorkers, there were already 6.3 million New Yorkers on the Medicaid and CHIP programs, according to The Kaiser Foundation reported that 2.5 million New Yorkers had acquired coverage from the Medicaid expansion, as well as the private insurance component, between 2013 and 2015. Now 30% of New York’s population is enrolled in the Medicaid and CHIP program, and 94% of New Yorkers have health insurance!!

The national figures are also extraordinary. reported that 74 million Americans were enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP in December 2016, nearly 23% of the population. That figure compares to 58 million enrolled in the July-September 2013 period, just before Obamacare began in January 2014, a gain of 16 million. These new enrollments included many people who had actually been eligible for Medicaid before the Affordable Care Act, but were pulled in, at least in part, by the broad national outreach effort to get more people to enroll. These figures don’t include the 11 million people enrolled in private insurance through the HealthCare Exchanges, most of whom are also subsidized. New York integrated the Medicaid program with its NYStateofHealth Exchange so that a person could enroll in the public program or a private program through the same exchange. But 90% of the coverage beneficiaries in New York enrolled in Medicaid, not the private insurance.

In 2007, the year before the Great Recession, 47 million Americans were enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP. Today it is 74 million. Tens of millions of Americans just above the poverty line got the help they needed and now the Republicans have figured out it is hard to cut a program that has broad national support.

Jim Brennan was a member of the New York State Assembly for 32 years and retired at the end of 2016. He chaired four committees, including the Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions for six years, the Committee on Cities for five years, and the Committee on Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities for six years. There are 96 Brennan laws on the books of the State of New York and Jim won three national awards for his legislative work during his career.

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