Uninsured adults need more options, not Medicaid expansion

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Legislators looking for alternatives to Medicaid expansion will want to keep some new research in their back pockets. According to the report, the majority of potential Medicaid expansion enrollees in states still debating expansion already have health insurance.

The report shows that 54 percent of all potential enrollees currently have private coverage and an additional 12 percent have access to insurance through the Obamacare exchanges. If remaining non-expansion states expanded Medicaid, millions of able-bodied adults would shift from private insurance to government-sponsored—and funded—welfare.

Medicaid was designed to serve low-income pregnant women and children, individuals with disabilities, and the elderly—“traditional” Medicaid beneficiaries. But Medicaid expansion expands that to include able-bodied adults.

As a result of shifting individuals off private insurance and the exchanges and into Medicaid, Medicaid expansion states are now facing budget crises. States have signed up more than twice as many able-bodied adults as anticipated, at nearly double the cost as was estimated. Every dollar spent on able-bodied adults is a dollar that can’t be spent on education, roads, and the truly needy.

States considering expansion should seriously consider both their intended target population and budgetary constraints. Expanding Medicaid will ultimately strain state budgets and put resources for the truly needy at risk—and to what end? To shift millions of able-bodied adults from private insurance to government-sponsored coverage.

If policymakers really want to reach the uninsured, they should look at options that will actually expand access to affordable health insurance options, including short-term plans and association health plans. While Medicaid expansion will crowd out millions who already have private insurance, expansion of short-term plans alone could result in more than two million uninsured individuals finding coverage.

Expanding Medicaid under the guise of helping the uninsured will succeed at nothing beyond threatening resources for the truly needy and pushing millions of able-bodied adults with private insurance into government dependency. Lawmakers should avoid it at all costs.