4 Million More Americans Run To Medicaid Seeking Refuge During Pandemic

Just since last spring, a little over 4 million Americans have clung to Medicaid as the coronavirus pandemic upended the nation’s economy, new federal data shows.

Amid the public health emergency, the 5.7 percent leap between February and June came as millions of people lost their jobs along with their health insurance. This devastation came along with a coronavirus relief package from Congress passed in mid-March that barred states from cutting eligibility and disenrolling beneficiaries during the pandemic.

The number of uninsured Americans continues to grow

More than 2.4 million adults enrolled in Medicaid, an increase of 7.2 percent. Also, 1.4 million kids signed up for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, a jump of 4.1 percent.

Some 68 million people were enrolled in Medicaid and another 6.7 million children were in CHIP in June, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Note: This data does not include Arizona and the District of Columbia, which did not report the breakouts for adult and child enrollment for one or more months covered in the report.

Unemployment pushing seniors to Medicaid

The increase, however, was less than some experts had predicted amid the economic collapse last spring. “That’s in part because some workers were temporarily furloughed and able to keep their work-based health coverage,” said Edwin Park, a research professor at the Georgetown Center for Children and Families. 

“With more of those layoffs becoming permanent, so Medicaid enrollment is expected to increase,” added Park.

More to come

The Congressional Budget Office now expects an additional 9 million people to be enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP in 2021, according to updated estimates released Tuesday. The high number derives from the economic downturn, but also from the requirement that states allow people to remain in the program longer.


Meanwhile, nearly half a million Americans turned to the federal Obamacare exchanges earlier this year after losing health insurance coverage. Overall, enrollment jumped 46 percent in the first five months of 2020 compared with the same period the year before.

States that run their own health insurance exchanges also saw increases in sign-ups during special enrollment periods they enacted this year.

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