Hundreds of Thousands Enrolling in Medicaid – Just Not in Texas

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While most of the health care-related news this month has centered around 1) the right's hatred of it vis a vis the government shutdown and 2) flaws in the HealthCare.gov website, it's worth noting the profound impact the Affordable Care Act is having around the country through the Medicaid expansion. But not in Texas.

Think Progress has an excellent run-down of preliminary results in states that have expanded Medicaid, showing that many of the states that have expanded Medicaid already have 50,000 – over 80,000 new households insured. For instance, in Oregon, “The low-income, Medicaid-funded program has already signed up 56,000 new people, cutting the state's number of uninsured by 10 percent, according to Oregon Health Authority officials.”

Read more about the Medicaid expansion and the red state/blue state divide after the jump.The American Prospect did an interesting analysis of state eligibility for Medicaid (aptly called “The Cruelty of Republican States in One Chart”), revealing a general trend that “you got to be almost dead before you can get Medicaid” in many conservative states.  And sadly, most of the states that opted out of expanding Medicaid are the ones where it's the most difficult to qualify for Medicaid in the first place. Put another way, “the states where the Medicaid expansion would have done the most good for the most people are precisely those states where Republican governors and legislatures have told their poor citizens that they're out of luck.”

Predictably, Texas is one of the worst offenders. In order to qualify for Medicaid in Texas, a family of three has to earn less than $5,000 per year. There are only four states where eligibility levels are lower. Meanwhile, in other states that don't have particularly high costs of living like Wisconsin and Minnesota, eligibility is closer to $40,000 for a family of three. And of the ten states where eligibility thresholds are the highest (i.e. the states that have relatively the lowest needs), nine of them still expanded Medicaid.

Arkansas is an excellent case study of a conservative state with an incredibly low and restrictive (actually the lowest and most restrictive)  eligibility threshold that is still doing the right thing with regards to the Medicaid expansion. According to Think Progress, Arkansas “sent letters to over 100,000 food stamp recipients, inviting them to apply for Medicaid coverage, along with a a stamped envelope. Almost 50,000 people responded.” And in just the first two weeks of enrollment, according to the Arkansas Department of Human Services, over 52,000 new Arkansas households were insured.

Even Ohio, whose legislature had been holding out on the Medicaid expansion, got the green light from its Republican governor last week (making it the fourth state with a Republican governor to accept the expansion). It's estimated that up to 330,000 Ohioans will now be eligible for health insurance.

According to NPR, over 6 million low-income Americans who will not be eligible for insurance on the health care exchanges will remain uninsured because of their states refusing Medicaid expansion. Three million of them live in four states, one of which is Texas.

Rick Perry's refusal to expand Medicaid is already shameful in light of the 2 million Texans it would insure and the $100 billion it would bring to the state. But as we see other states moving farther ahead in so many ways because of the Medicaid expansion, it becomes more outrageous by the day.  

About Author

Emily Cadik

Emily is a Texas ex-pat and proud Longhorn living in Washington, DC, where she remains connected to the Lone Star State through her work on BOR and her enthusiasm for breakfast tacos. She works on affordable housing policy, and writes about health care, poverty and other social justice issues.

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