More Americans are enrolled in Medicaid than ever, new data show, after a jump in signups during the pandemic. Almost 9.9 million people were added to Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program between February 2020 and this January, the Wall Street Journal reports, a rise of 13.9%, for a total enrollment of more than 80 million. The numbers were released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. They show the 1960s program has become more than a safety net and is now a central component of US health care coverage, per the New York Times. "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.
Many of the enrollees joined after the pandemic cost them their jobs and health benefits. That's always been the idea. "The purpose of Medicaid is for times like this, when there is an economic downturn," a researcher said. But another prompt was a provision in last year's first coronavirus relief legislation, per the Washington Post. The federal government sent more money to states to help with rising Medicaid costs, but states had to agree to not take anyone off Medicaid as long as the federal public health emergency was in effect. The Affordable Care Act allowed states to expand their Medicaid programs, adding people with marginally higher incomes, as of 2014. But a dozen states haven't done that, driven largely by politicians' opposition to the ACA. The latest coronavirus relief package adds incentives for states to approve expansion. (Read more Medicaid stories.)