The vast majority of Obamacare enrollees are signing up for Medicaid, not purchasing private insurance — and according to some, the major imbalance is going to have long-term effects.
“What we’re seeing from Obamacare so far is that Obamacare is really just a massive Medicaid expansion,” Tarren Bragdon, CEO of the nonprofit Foundation for Government Accountability, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Medicaid is a federal entitlement for low-income Americans operated in partnership with the states.
The number of Medicaid enrollments through Obamacare exchanges and the Medicaid expansion are rapidly outpacing the number of consumers that purchased private insurance, which was supposed to be the main crux of Obamacare.
As CBS News has reported, that can have a drastic effect on how the health industry works. “Either the private insurance enrollments come up somewhere around the expected amount or there’s going to be a problem,” former Medicaid director Gail Wilensky told CBS. “You need a volume and you need a mix of people that are healthy as well as high users in private insurance, in order to have it be sustainable.”
Medicaid pays providers less than the cost of the care they provide, Bragdon explained to TheDCNF, meaning the more Medicaid patients, the bigger loss for hospitals and medical providers.
Some of those providers may stop seeing Medicaid patients at all, meaning the newly covered patients may still face a dearth of quality care options.
Obamacare supporters have touted the program as an opportunity to get the uninsured out of emergency rooms. Use of emergency rooms for everyday care by the uninsured causes crowding and puts taxpayers on the hook for expensive care. But if those signing up for Obamacare are overwhelmingly choosing Medicaid, that may not fix the problem.
“Medicaid patients use the ER four times more frequently than the uninsured or those with private insurance,” Bragdon said, “so what the legacy of this Obamacare Medicaid expansion will likely be is more wait time and more crowding of ERs, not less.”
Though the federal government has not yet released enrollment numbers at all, some state exchanges have revealed their Obamacare data. In early every case, Medicaid enrollment has exceeded new private insurance coverage.
“I think we’re getting a glimpse of what the real legacy of Obamacare is,” Bragdon told TheDCNF. “Just a massive Medicaid expansion.”
Here’s where some of the states stand so far:
1) Oregon: 0 private insurance; 56,000 Medicaid
2) Maryland: 3,100 enrolled; 82,473 to be automatically enrolled in Medicaid January 1
3) Colorado: 3,164 private insurance; 25,000 Medicaid
4) Washington: 3,084 private insurance; 21,865 Medicaid
5) Kentucky: 4,832 private insurance; 21,342 Medicaid
6) New York: 13,313 private insurance; 23,717 Medicaid
7) Connecticut: 1,897 private insurance; 1,857 Medicaid
The data from the 36 federally run exchanges at the failed site HealthCare.gov and some of the state exchanges have yet to be released.
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