Sebelius Calls It 'Good News' That Medicaid Coverage Is Expanding

By Susan Jones | December 3, 2013 | 11:20am EST

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius answers questions about the Affordable Care Act enrollment in San Antonio. on Oct. 25, 2013. (AP File Photo)

( - Under the Affordable Care Act, Americans who are too poor to pay for health insurance on the new Obamacare exchanges will be eligible to enroll in their state's Medicaid or Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) -- but only if their state has agreed to expand those programs.

On Tuesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius called it "good news" that more than 1.46 million people were found eligible to enroll in Medicaid or CHIP in the month of October.

"In states that expand coverage, most individuals with incomes up to 133% of the Federal Poverty Level, or $15,282 for an individual and $31,322 for a family of four, will be eligible for Medicaid coverage that begins January 1, 2014," Sebelius said.

"Not only is coverage good for new beneficiaries, it’s a good deal for states: Coverage for newly eligible adult beneficiaries is fully federally paid for under the Affordable Care Act for the first three years, with funding gradually dropping to 90 percent after that point."

The phrase "fully federally paid for" means American taxpayers will foot the bill for all these newly minted beneficiaries, some of whom might not need Medicaid if they had jobs and were contributing to the tax base.

Some governors, including Republican Bob McDonnell of Virginia, have questioned whether the federal government can keep its commitment to have taxpayers foot the bill for all new Medicaid/CHIP beneficiaries for three years -- and pick up 90 percent of the tab after that.

"I mean, the federal government's broke. $17 trillion in debt -- 100 percent for three years, and 90 percent thereafter -- I'm not sure they can do it," McDonnell told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Nov. 14.  McDonnell also said Medicaid already is "busting" most state budgets, given the program's significant growth in recent years.

But according to Sebelius, "The increase in the number of applications submitted and in Medicaid determinations across the country is encouraging..."

She noted that since Oct. 1, "We've been hearing stories about those who are enrolling in Medicaid and CHIP coverage every day. In October, in states that are fully participating in the expansion of Medicaid coverage made possible by the law, we’ve seen a more than 15 percent jump in applications compared to the average monthly enrollment in July through September. This shows a real need and desire for coverage for low income Americans."

It also shows that many people are struggling financially in a lackluster economy five years after President Obama was elected president.

Sebelius noted that some states are taking advantage of "innovative ways" to sign people up for Medicare: "One option is to reach out to people who qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamps), because they are also likely to be eligible for Medicaid. In participating states, we’ve seen nearly 223,000 individuals enroll in Medicaid using this strategy."

In fiscal 2013, a record 47,666,124 people were getting SNAP benefits, compared with 28,409,880 in fiscal 2008, which ended on Sept. 30, 2008--and was the last full fiscal year before Obama took office in January 2009. That is an increase of 19,256,244--or 67.7 percent--in five years.

Also See:
White House: Food Stamps 'Are Boosting the Economy'

23,116,928 to 20,618,000: Households on Food Stamps Now Outnumber All Households in Northeast U.S.

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