To encourage reluctant states to expand Medicaid as allowed by the Affordable Care Act, a group of lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives has created the State Medicaid Expansion Caucus.
The expansion of Medicaid, which was made optional by a 2012 Supreme Court ruling, enables coverage for all low-income individuals under 138 percent of the federal poverty level. So far, 26 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the expansion while 24 have sided against it or say they are still deliberating.
Many more people would obtain Medicaid coverage if all states expanded the program. Medicaid expansion is "the correct budgetary, economic, health and moral choice," said Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., at a press conference announcing formation of the expansion caucus.
Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., speaks at a July 23 Capitol Hill press conference announcing the formation of the State Medicaid Expansion Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives.
According to a report by the White House Council of Economic Advisers, some 5.7 million people have gained Medicaid or Children's Health Insurance Program coverage since the beginning of the ACA's first open enrollment period. But at least 5.7 million more could enroll in Medicaid if all states would expand the program.
The federal government covers 100 percent of the cost of state Medicaid expansion through 2016 and then begins to step down the federal match until it reaches 90 percent beginning in 2019.
Johnson, who spearheads the caucus, said one of its primary goals will be to create pressure on the remaining 24 state legislatures to adopt the Medicaid expansion. Caucus members plan to highlight the importance of Medicaid in floor speeches, op-eds, social media posts, briefings and events.
CHA expressed support for the caucus and all efforts to persuade states that Medicaid expansion is in their best interest.
"We cannot stay silent as so many individuals and families who could benefit from meaningful health coverage are left out because of political calculations," Sr. Carol Keehan, DC, CHA's president and chief executive officer, said in a statement to the caucus. For more information and to join the social media campaign, visit Facebook.com/MedicaidExpansionCaucus.
Lawmakers who attended the State Medicaid Expansion Caucus press conference July 23 on Capitol Hill said that with the federal government paying most of the cost, states are smart to expand Medicaid eligibility, especially since there are clear economic benefits. According to the Council of Economic Advisers study, the 24 states that have not yet expanded Medicaid "would have created an additional $66 billion in total economic activity through 2017" and helped create 184,000 jobs in 2015 alone had they acted to expand the insurance program.
"It is a shortsighted and politically motivated decision" not to expand Medicaid, Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., said at the press conference. "These states have callously chosen to turn their backs on 5 million people who need this expansion" to get health insurance.
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