Medicaid and Medicare Enrollees Now Outnumber Full-Time Private Sector Workers

Terence P. Jeffrey | October 18, 2012 | 5:32pm EDT
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(AP Photo)

( - The combined number of people enrolled in Medicaid and Medicare--the government health-care programs for the poor, disabled and elderly--now exceeds the number of full-time private sector workers in the United States.

In 2011, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), there were 70.4 million people who enrolled in Medicaid for at least one month. There were also 48.849 million people enrolled in Medicare. That gave Medicaid and Medicare a gross combined enrollment of 119.249 million in 2011.

At the same time, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 112,556,000 people worked full-time in the United States in 2011. Of these 112,556,000 full-time workers, 17,806,000 worked for government (at the federal, state or local level) and 94,750,000 worked for the private sector.

The gross combined enrollment of 119.249 million in Medicaid and Medicare in 2011 outnumbered the 112.556 million full-time workers employed in both the private sector and in government in 2011.

However, there are a certain number of people each year—called “dual enrollees” by CMS—who enroll in both Medicaid and Medicare because they are eligible for both. According to CMS, however, the most recently developed data for the actual number of “dual enrollees” is for 2008--when a total of 61.9 million people were enrolled in Medicaid and 9.3 million of them were “dual enrollees” who also enrolled in Medicare.

“In total, there were about 9.3 million duals in 2008,” said a CMS study published this year. “They represented 15 percent of the 61.9 million Medicaid enrollees and 21 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries that year.”

If the percentage of Medicaid-Medicare "dual enrollees" remained constant at 15 percent from 2008 to 2011, there would have been about 10.56 dual enrollees in 2011 (15 percent of 70.4 million). Subtracting 10.56 million dual enrollees from the 119.249 million gross combined enrollment in Medicaid and Medicare in 2011 leaves a net of about 108.689 individuals enrolled in Medicaid and Medicare or both.

That is 13.939 million more than the 94.75 million people who worked full-time in the private sector in the United States in to 2011.

Back in 2008, the combined number of Medicaid and Medicare enrollees did not exceed the overall number of full-time workers or the number of private sector full-time workers, according to the data published by CMS and BLS. That year there were 61.9 million Medicaid enrollees and 45.4 million Medicare enrollees for an overall combined enrollment of 107.3 million. Subracting the known 9.3 million dual enrollees for that year leaves 98 million individuals who were getting Medicaid, Medicare or both in 2008.

But in 2008, there were 120.030 million full-time workers in the United States, including 18.528 million who worked for government and 101.502 million who worked for the private sector.

The 120.030 million full-time workers overall in 2008 and the 101.502 million full-time private sector workers that year both outnumbered the 98 million persons on Medicaid, Medicare or both.

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