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HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote in a blog post
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3 million added to Medicaid, CHIP rolls through February, HHS says


By Paul Demko
Posted: April 4, 2014 - 3:00 pm ET
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Roughly 3 million more individuals enrolled in Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program between October and February, according to new data (PDF) released today by HHS. The announcement is the first time HHS has specified how many new enrollees signed up for these programs through February during the first open enrollment period for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

The final number of new enrollees will climb because March data are not included in this total.

Enrollment increases were significantly higher in states that had opted to expand Medicaid to households with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level. In those states, Medicaid and CHIP enrollments increased 8.3% between October and February. In non-expansion states, enrollment increases were just 1.6%, according to HHS. Roughly half the states have opted to move forward with Medicaid expansion as permitted under the ACA.

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Enrollment growth was particularly robust in some states. Oregon, Vermont and West Virginia saw enrollments spike by more than 30% between October and February. And in Washington, Nevada, Maryland and Colorado, enrollments increased by more than 20%.

However, seven states reported decreased enrollments. Nebraska saw the steepest drop, with a 7.2% drop in low-income beneficiary enrollment.

“Expanding coverage reduces hospitals' uncompensated care, lowers 'cost shifting' to businesses that see higher health insurance premiums as some of the costs of caring for the uninsured are passed on to them, and strengthens local economies,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote in a blog post announcing the enrollment figures. “The increase in Medicaid enrollments across the country is encouraging, but more work is left to do to ensure that the millions of uninsured Americans eligible for these programs gain coverage.”

Enrollment numbers should be viewed with several caveats. A total of 46 states and the District of Columbia submitted enrollment data for both February and the pre-enrollment period. In addition, the final month of enrollment, which saw a surge in individuals seeking insurance coverage, is not reflected in the numbers released by HHS. The numbers also don't include individuals who have been deemed eligible for Medicaid or CHIP coverage through the federal exchange and referred to their states for possible enrollment. Data sent by the federal government to states often has been unreliable or incomplete; 36 states are relying on the federal marketplace to assess applicant eligibility.

Since the start of the open enrollment period on Oct. 1, 11.8 million individuals have been deemed eligible for Medicaid or CHIP, but some of them were simply renewing their current coverage. A total of 62.3 million individuals were enrolled in the healthcare coverage programs for low-income households at the end of February.

Follow Paul Demko on Twitter: @MHpdemko


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