One in Six Americans Is Now on Medicaid

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One in Six Americans Are Now on MedicaidA record one in six Americans is on Medicaid, the government's health program for the poor, according to USA Today. And Medicaid is just one of several government anti-poverty programs that have seen large increases in caseloads and in costs.

Millions of Americans lost their jobs during the recession, and large numbers of those have lost their employee-sponsored health insurance, too. COBRA subsidies notwithstanding, those job losses have cost most the ability to pay for private health insurance as well.

So it's perhaps unsurprising that more than 50 million Americans are now on Medicaid, up by at least 7 million people, or 17% since the recession began in December 2007, USA Today's research shows. Also not surprising is the fact that the federal government's outlays on Medicaid jumped 36% in the past two years to $273 billion.

That jump in enrollment comes well ahead of 2014, when the new health care reform law will expand Medicaid's enrollment criteria. According to a recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, Medicaid enrollment is projected to increase by 15.9 million by 2019 which would boost federal spending on the program by $443.5 billion.

With the economy climbing out of recession much more slowly than had been expected, the U.S. unemployment rate still high, and the government expanding eligibility, USA Today lists other antipoverty programs for low-income individuals and families that have expanded since the downturn began: More than 40 million people now get food stamps, an increase of nearly 50%, nearly four times as many people are receiving unemployment insurance, and 18% more people are on welfare.

As caseloads for all the safety net programs have soared, so have costs. Outlays for the food stamp program have risen 80% to $70 billion, costs for jobless benefits have soared from $43 billion to $160 billion, and welfare is up 24%, to $22 billion.
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