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Medicaid Expansion Underway In Ohio, But Numbers Can Confuse

Ohio officials are reporting over 23,000 people newly eligible for Medicaid in Ohio got enrolled in January, after Ohio Governor John Kasich decided to expand the insurance program to cover more low-income people using Affordable Care Act funds.

Medicaid can be tricky to quantify, however.

At the Montgomery County Job Center’s health care room, the people coming in are a mix—some have been on and off Medicaid, and some are signing up for subsidized care for the first time.

“We’re trying to get something straightened out that was lost in the shuffle,” said Steve Thompson. He and his wife Tina had a Medicaid plan cancelled without explanation recently, and now they’re back to re-enroll.

“I went to get my medicine the other day and it was almost 500 dollars, couldn’t get it,” said Tina. “And then I’m due for surgery in two months, can’t get it, until I get my insurance.”

The experience of going on and off Medicaid insurance is so common, experts have a name for it: “churning.” It usually happens because of eligibility changes such as a change in income or family status, or a new job, and it means total Medicaid enrollment numbers constantly go up and down.

The numbers of newly eligible people who’ve signed up are actually pretty low compared to that total number of Ohioans on Medicaid—just shy of 2.4 million, or one in five. However, they are in line with Ohio’s expectations for enrollment: the state predicts a total of 275,000 newly-eligible residents will sign up by midway through 2015, which puts the state at around 9 percent of its goal after the first month.

By March 31, 2014, all uninsured Ohio residents are expected to sign up for a plan or face a tax penalty later, and Medicaid is now available to adults making under 138 percent of the federal poverty level. People without health insurance can check their eligibility for Medicaid on benefits.ohio.gov, or go through the federal health care marketplace at healthcare.gov.


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