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

Annual MLK Day Parade Marches Through Los Angeles
(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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dumbneasy January 24 2014 at 12:25 PM

Except that nowhere in the story does it tell you that if you get on medicaid between the ages of 55 and 64, the government has the right to come in and take everything in your estate when you die. Yep! There goes the house you left for your kids....

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violetvalerieviolet January 24 2014 at 12:27 PM

i thought u all wanted everybody to pay their own way?

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George January 24 2014 at 6:07 AM

Unbelievable the haters commenting here. We as a country have become so divided over something like universal healthcare? You can have healthcare as long as I don't have to pay for it seems to be the major rant. Whatever happened to people helping each other in time of need? Now we're all just lazy because we can't find jobs? And the old line of the poor not paying taxes? I just finished figuring out what I have to pay from earning 17,619$ last year. 763$ doesn't sound like much eh? 2 months rent where I live. Yea YOU wouldn't live where I do. I don't take handouts though I suppose I'm entitled to some. And if things get much worse you can bet I will. 5 years ago I was welding making nearly 40k$ a year. Things were good. Things got bad when the housing crash happened and the racist business owners got upset that we elected a black president and just shut down. Of course financing two wars previous, bailing out companies who didn't deserve it, all we did was put off the inevitable when we should have just let the system crash as it was intended to do. Think they saved the economy? All they did was prolong it's life so that when it does finally come crashing down all the people who thought they were safe from the debacle are tossed into the fray. I for one will welcome you with open arms. I may even feed a few of you if I have food to spare.

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violetvalerieviolet January 24 2014 at 9:51 AM

yea we send billions of dollars to other countrys poor so they dont die in streets, and im not complaining about that i am glad we can do that, but the people on this thread just want our own poor americans to suffer

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patriot1too January 24 2014 at 4:50 AM

Stop the doctors from padding their bills and ripping off insurance companys and patients and you will have solved the peoblem. This awful unaffordable obama care nonsense is not good for America or its citizens.

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OneLove January 24 2014 at 4:29 AM

The same young man carrying the sign stating " I love ObamaCare " should carry a sign " I hate to work"

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patriot1too January 24 2014 at 4:53 AM

The little hoody boy is another thug victim wannabe who was given the sign by someone who is no doubt the low information voters that put this obama mess in office. Lets hope America will not repeat that mistake in the next round of voting.

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geez2463 January 24 2014 at 4:05 AM

Medicaid should require a copay. The abuse is real bad in Medicaid. Everyone has a copay why should someone on Medicaid be any different?

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puensi666 January 24 2014 at 3:47 AM

Naw he's not a socialist.

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patriot1too January 24 2014 at 4:47 AM

Well actually he is. Americas first trojan horse president. He is being covered for and proped up by the liberal extremisist media. America does not want this awful unaffordable obama care nonsense.

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mon42 January 24 2014 at 3:44 AM

6.3 million people getting free stuff paid for by you, the people who pay taxes. cant demand a penny of copay . just what is their 'fair share'? when do they 'put skin in the game'? the abuse i see every day is breath taking.

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allendniles January 24 2014 at 3:13 AM

They would have been eligible anyway. But so what. Try and find a doc that takes Medicaid. And if you pass on the gov't will come after your estate for any unpaid med bill. The ACA seeks the lowest level of care like water.

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DEE JERLS January 24 2014 at 3:43 AM

so wrong
why do you want to scare people like that
Get your facts straight first-before making these comments without proof

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lindahsrman January 24 2014 at 3:06 AM

so happy Obama did this for our uninsured, they need it sooo bad

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aspman07 January 24 2014 at 3:42 AM

Another uninformed person speaks out.

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ukcat1 January 24 2014 at 2:43 AM

Health insurance is complicated. Its hard to understand and figure out. If I have to go on Obama care, my coverage cost doubles and the coverage is much worse. Most of my doctors are on the panel in Ohio but I live in Kentucky (6 miles from OH) and have to get Obama Care in the state in which I live. When I looked at the panel for the Kentucky multi state plan, there was not one doctor I knew or ever had heard the name. There are other problems if you get sick on vacation.

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