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Report says Obamacare added 1.1 million to 1.8 million to Medicaid, less than Obama touted

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In the last three months of 2013, between 1.1 million to 1.8 million people signed up for Medicaid through President Obama's health care law -- far less than the numbers touted by Obama in his State of the Union address, according to a report by a health care advisory firm Avalere.

Medicaid enrollment numbers have been the source of controversy for several months, because the data released by the Department of Health and Human Services has folded together Medicaid enrollments among those who were newly eligible for Medicaid as a result of Obamacare and those who would have been eligible for benefits anyway before the law and were merely renewing their coverage.

On Jan. 24, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a division of HHS, reported that "between October and December over 6.3 million individuals were determined eligible to enroll in Medicaid or CHIP through state agencies and through state-based marketplaces."

In his Jan. 28 State of the Union speech, Obama combined this Medicaid number with the 3 million who CMS said had signed up for private coverage through the health care law's exchanges, to make this claim: "More than nine million Americans have signed up for private health insurance or Medicaid coverage."

But the Avalere report noted that the 6.3 million Medicaid estimate includes "a number of individuals who would have normally enrolled in Medicaid absent the [Affordable Care Act], including regular program churn and renewals."

The firm estimated, "that from October through December 2013, between 1.1 [million] and 1.8 [million] people have newly enrolled in Medicaid as a result of" the health care law.

The estimates were based on comparing total Medicaid enrollment from October to December 2013, to enrollment from the summer of 2013.

Due to a 2012 Supreme Court decision, states were given the option of whether or not to expand Medicaid, and 26 states have chosen to do so for 2014, according to a tally from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Caroline Pearson, vice president of Avalere, said, “On average, we have seen a 12 percent increase in Medicaid applications compared to the typical rates before ACA, with a higher uptick of 19 percent among expansion states.”

Even in states where Medicaid eligibility wasn't expanded, the publicity surrounding the need to get covered in 2014 as a result of the law, also likely boosted enrollment in the program.

But if the Avalere estimate is accurate, that boost was much less than Obama and other administration officials have led the public to believe.

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Philip Klein

Commentary Editor
The Washington Examiner