The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

National News

November 13, 2013

Medicaid is health overhaul's early success story

(Continued)

At present, 25 states and the District of Columbia have accepted the Medicaid expansion, which is strongly supported by state hospital associations, medical groups and advocates for the poor. Its main beneficiaries are expected to be low-income adults with no children living at home.

“This is a group of states that’s very committed to aggressive expansion and enrollment,” said Matt Salo, executive director of the nonpartisan National Association of Medicaid Directors.

The White House is promoting the Medicaid expansion. In a visit to Louisiana last week, Obama chided Republican leaders in the states who have turned thumbs down so far. In the audience was GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal, who was not swayed.

If the expansion is seen as a success, that could motivate its supporters in states like Virginia, which just elected Democrat Terry McAuliffe to replace a GOP governor reluctant to widen the scope of government. Another key state is Florida, where GOP Gov. Rick Scott abandoned expansion efforts after hitting stiff opposition in the legislature. An estimated 1.3 million Floridians could potentially qualify.

Avalere’s statistic of at least 444,000 new Medicaid enrollees comes from 10 of the 25 states that accepted the expansion, so it only represents a partial count. Those numbers may also include some individuals eligible for Medicaid under current rules.

In Colorado, Medicaid applications in October were six to nine times what they were the month before, said Sue Birch, who heads the state’s Department of Health Care Policy and Financing.

A yearslong effort to reach eligible residents apparently succeeded in generating the increased demand. The state has installed self-service kiosks in community clinics, hospitals and libraries to sign people up. And a year ago, nurses statewide agreed to help by promoting Medicaid to low-income uninsured patients.

“We said to our nurses: ‘OK, you’re our bounty hunters. You go find our patients,’” Birch said.

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