Medicaid enrollment surged during COVID-19 pandemic, report shows

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More than 80 million people — a record number — have health coverage through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, as enrollments surged due to Covid-19, according to new data released Monday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. 

Between February of 2020 and January 2021, nearly 9.9 million people enrolled in the two programs—a 13.9% increase, the data shows. And more than 38.3 million children, or nearly half of the total Medicaid and CHIP enrollment, were in both those programs.

The boost in enrollment, much of it in Medicaid, can be attributed to the pandemic and the boost in federal matching funds to states for Medicaid as part of the first coronavirus relief package that Congress passed last year, CMS officials said.

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Medicaid enrollment increased from 64 million to more than 73 million, while CHIP grew by around 123,000, the report says.

The federal government picks up to 90% of the cost for people covered under the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, but it matches state expenditures for other beneficiaries in the program. Under pandemic legislation, states receive a 6.2 percentage-point increase in federal funds that match state expenditures on the program.

More than 80 million people — a record number — have health coverage through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, as enrollments surged due to Covid-19, according to new data released Monday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid S (Associated Press)

The matching funds helped provide some relief to states struggling to afford the increasing pace of sign-ups in Medicaid, a program for low income and disabled people. Medicaid has grown to become one of the largest portions of state budgets, from about 21% in fiscal 2008 to about 30% in fiscal 2018, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers.

"This report reminds us what a critical program and rock Medicaid continues to be in giving tens of millions of children and adults access to care," said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra in a statement.

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Medicaid has served as a critical safety net during economic downturns: During the 2007-2009 recession, monthly enrollment rose by nearly six million people, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

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