Policymakers in some of the 25 states that haven’t expanded Medicaid as part of health reform (see map) are putting expansion at the top of this year’s legislative agenda. The New Hampshire House passed an expansion bill on the first day of its session last week, for example, and Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe advocated for expansion in his first address to lawmakers. These policymakers are wise to prioritize the Medicaid expansion, as the costs of not expanding have begun to accrue:
States’ failure to expand has created a “coverage gap” containing nearly 5 million people. People in this gap — which includes more than a quarter of the uninsured, non-elderly adults in these 25 states, according to a recent analysis by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured — are shut out of health reform’s coverage options. Their income is too low to qualify for help buying private coverage through the new marketplaces and too high to qualify for Medicaid.
States that haven’t expanded are missing out on a very good financial deal. The federal government will pick up 100 percent of the cost of covering newly eligible people through 2016 and no less than 90 percent of the cost after that. So, the amount of federal money that states forgo by not expanding will continue to grow.
States that have expanded expect slower growth in state Medicaid costs than states that haven’t expanded. This finding, from a recent Kaiser survey of states, reflects the fact that expansion states anticipate savings in state-funded services that they have provided to uninsured individuals who are now eligible for Medicaid. Examples include mental health care, corrections-related health care, and uncompensated care.