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Expanded Medicaid Enrollment Exceeds Expectations In Year One

Antwaun Brown is currently uninsured, and doesn't know yet whether he'll be able to get covered by the ACA. medicaid insurance health
Lewis Wallace

It’s been a year now since Ohio expanded the low income health insurance program known as Medicaid, and enrollment exceeded expectations.

Before 2014, Ohio Medicaid was limited to children and their parents, pregnant women and people with disabilities who couldn’t afford health care. But at the end of 2013, Governor John Kasich went against his own Republican legislature to expand the program to all adults making less than about $16,000 a year for an individual, or 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

As of November, about 450,000 people in Ohio had enrolled under that new eligibility—which is around a third more than the 366,000 the Ohio Department of Medicaid predicted would enroll in year one of the expansion.

“We have clearly seen a need,” said Sam Rossi, communications director for Ohio Medicaid. Medicaid expansion alongside increased enrollment in health insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act has already made a significant dent in the state’s uninsured rate, though estimates vary.

Medicaid expansion to provide an option for low-income residents was part of the design of the Affordable Care Act, and the federal government is funding the new coverage through 2016, and splitting costs 90/10 with the states after that. A lot of health providers say comprehensive coverage can save money in the long run by focusing on preventive care for poor people.

Opponents of the expansion are concerned about how the state will pay its share in the future, and legislative challenges to the Medicaid expansion could come up in the new year’s Republican-dominated legislature.

Lewis Wallace is WYSO's managing editor, substitute host and economics reporter. Follow him @lewispants.