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6.3 million eligible for Medicaid since Obamacare launch: U.S. agency

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(Reuters) - More than 6.3 million Americans were deemed eligible for government healthcare plans for the poor since the October 1 launch of President Barack Obama's healthcare law through December, federal officials reported on Wednesday.

The swelling rolls for Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) reflect both an expansion of Medicaid under Obama's Affordable Care Act (ACA) and what healthcare policy analysts call an "out-of-the-woodwork effect," in which people who heard about Obamacare sought to obtain health insurance and discovered that they had qualified for Medicaid even before the law expanded eligibility.

"We have people who for the first time will have some health security that they never had before," Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, said of the Medicaid numbers at the winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C.

It was not clear how much credit goes to the healthcare law, however.

"What many people don't read far enough to learn is that this number also can include people in some states who are eligible under pre-expansion -- the woodwork effect -- and whose Medicaid enrollment was simply renewed," said Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors.

The 6.3 million people determined eligible for Medicaid or CHIP last fall swamps the 2.2 million people who had purchased private health insurance on the state-based Obamacare marketplaces that launched on October 1. The ACA also raised the income threshold for Medicaid eligibility to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or $15,856 for a single person.

A Supreme Court decision in 2012 allowed each U.S. state to decide whether to accept the expansion. So far, 25 states have reached an agreement with the administration to do so. Prior to the ACA, just over 60 million Americans were covered by Medicaid.

In December alone, 2.3 million individuals were determined eligible to enroll in Medicaid or CHIP, an increase of over 20 percent from November, according to the report from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the lead Obamacare agency. About 1.2 million of these were in the 25 states (and the District of Columbia) already expanding Medicaid, and just over 1 million were in the 25 states that have not.

The CMS figures refer to the number of people that meet Medicaid eligibility rather than actual enrollment in the program due to the troubled HealthCare.gov website, which is run by the federal government to serve Obamacare sign-ups in 36 states.

For months, the website did not correctly transmit information that applicants are eligible for Medicaid to their state Medicaid program. The state offices do the actual enrollment, and have been scrambling to send out tens of thousands of letters to residents to actually enroll them, the Washington Post reported this month.

At the same time, the national figures mirror what many of the Medicaid-expansion states have reported. In California, for instance, 625,000 individuals have gained coverage through private policies purchased on the state's Obamacare exchange, Covered California, while 1.2 million enrolled in Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program.

The websites through which people can shop for insurance under Obamacare are required to have what the Obama administration calls a "no wrong door" policy, meaning that even if people went to their state's exchange expecting to buy private insurance, the site would determine if they were instead eligible for Medicaid or CHIP, which generally charge zero premiums.

Several states have gone beyond that, seeking out Medicaid-eligible people by contacting those who receive food stamps or other benefits that indicate they have very low incomes.

(Reporting by Sharon Begley and David Morgan; Editing by Amanda Kwan)

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nanouno January 23 2014 at 6:22 PM

what about the people that live in a state that doesn't accept the expansion and don't have the money to pay for insurance? What are they to do?

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1 reply
wantace nanouno January 23 2014 at 9:31 PM

go to Mexico

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mesesmom January 23 2014 at 10:54 PM

Having had friends on Medi-CaL (CA's version of Medicaid), I can tell you, whether or not you qualify, you don't want it. It is fourth-rate medicine at best. Obsolete facilities, less-than-copmpetent staff who are only working for Medi-Cal offices because they aren't good enough to be hired anywhere else seem to be the norm. They were generally rude and arrogant to their patients and if you ask a simple question, they blow a gasket. Yes, I'm talking about YOU, Chief of Orthopedics at Natividad Medical Center.

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earth2202 January 23 2014 at 3:09 PM

Socialism at its best...now who is going to pay for this? All of the fools who are still working or looking for jobs!

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1 reply
MAMA DEE earth2202 January 23 2014 at 4:01 PM

The ones WITH jobs were paying for it anyway with higher insurance and RX premiums! Bravo Obama! It's about time for the change!

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michael January 23 2014 at 10:00 PM

It is ok if you want to be a bum, I just should not have to pay for it. Even in the Bible, the poor gleaned the fields for their meals. If you want Govt. handouts then you need to work 40 hours for the Govt. Clean parks, crossing guards, shoveling and so on.

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7 replies
Huck January 23 2014 at 9:57 PM

Medicaid or Medicare, neither is what we deserve as Americas. Most I talked to wanted a Canadian plan but all we got was forced commerical insurance or useless public plans. Very sad days indeed.

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1 reply
johnspek Huck January 23 2014 at 11:16 PM

Canada is using a public plan

you want a public plan but you don't want a public plan

Obamacare has meds for that

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1 reply
klasakt johnspek January 24 2014 at 12:06 AM

ROFL .... thumbs up for that one!

Flag +1 rate up
Huck January 23 2014 at 9:34 PM

Wait till all those new Medicaid people get the rude awaking that good Doctors and Specialist don't take the Medicaid new HMO plans. Back to ER'S but hey at least you'll have Medicare to wait to be sent home with out Specialist care for your serious illness.

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foxylynx January 23 2014 at 7:16 PM

Just wait till about 12 million illegals get amnesty - most of them do not even have a 10th grade education - medicaid will bankrupt us all. If you thought healthcare was expensive before, just wait till it is free!

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1 reply
Donna foxylynx January 23 2014 at 7:26 PM

No but they pick the food you eat because hard labor is beyond most Americans.

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2 replies
shranne Donna January 23 2014 at 7:50 PM

TRUE with a few exceptions... The U.S. has able bodied people on the welfare rolls which could be working...But refuse to because "UNCLE SUGAR" pays their bills....Suggested reading : Uncle Sams Plantation...By Star Parker...

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teacher123amy Donna January 23 2014 at 7:53 PM

The honest migrants do. What about those who are criminals? I like other Americans want them to pay. We take better care of the illegals while our senior citizens struggle. Let us not forget how the government cut veteran benefits. They pick our food was the best you could respond with.

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Jason January 23 2014 at 9:23 PM

With as much rhetoric right now about the wealth disparity in this nation, I find it appalling that the asset recovery aspect of medicaid is not being reported across the mainstream media. If ever a chance of the less fortunate to pass some wealth on to one's heirs existed, the Medicaid expansion will squash it.

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cabgnvlvrn January 23 2014 at 9:16 PM

Good luck finding a provider to care for you if you are on Medicaid. Medicaid pays next to nothing and most physicians will tell you that they actually lose money taking care of Medicaid patients. So, Obamacare can push as many as they choose onto the Medicaid rolls but there will be no care available for them.

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1 reply
rdh32khll cabgnvlvrn January 23 2014 at 9:19 PM

That is a fact. It will backfire.

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1 reply
cathmyk rdh32khll January 23 2014 at 10:52 PM

I AM DYING OF CANCER. JUST TO keep alive we ar paying 941.00 a amonth. Both of us my husband and myself worked all our lives. We don't even come close to OBAMA helping us.

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jmferriter January 23 2014 at 9:14 PM

The Feds want as many people as possible on Medicaid so when they die, they can grab their estates.

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