One of the primary ways in which ObamaCare was supposed to insure the previously uninsured was by expanding Medicaid eligibility to households earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. There is no question that more people have attempted to enroll in Medicaid, a joint federal-state program, as a direct result of this expansion. The Department of Health and Human Services reports that as of the end of April, six million more individuals had enrolled in the program, with “growth ... more pronounced in states that adopted the Medicaid expansion.”
There’s just one problem: As with enrollment in exchange coverage, enrollment in Medicaid has been beset with technological trip-ups and bureaucratic bungles — issues magnified by the large number of attempted enrollees. In fact, things are so bad that, according to a CQ Roll Call survey of states, “at least 2.9 million Americans who signed up for Medicaid coverage as part of the health care overhaul have not had their applications processed, with some paperwork sitting in queues since last fall.”
This, of course, leaves many of those poor and near-poor people who thought they were going to get free (i.e., taxpayer-subsidized) healthcare come 2014 in limbo. They believe they are eligible for Medicaid — the exchange website may even have told them so — but cannot be sure their state Medicaid offices will agree. Thus, they may be reluctant to seek medical attention or refill prescriptions, uncertain as to whether or not the government will eventually pick up the tab. (Medicaid coverage is retroactive to 90 days before an individual applied for it.) In addition, healthcare providers, already wary of treating Medicaid patients because of the program’s low reimbursement rates, are even more averse to accepting patients who might be eligible for the program but haven’t yet been officially enrolled.
The states with the most delayed Medicaid applications are California, with over 900,000 late applications; Illinois, with 330,000; and North Carolina, with at least 285,884. The sheer volume of applications has been part of the problem, but technical difficulties account for most of the trouble.
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