Medicaid rolls grew 5% in 2008

Wisconsin led all states with a nearly 17% increase, mostly due to a 2008 Medicaid expansion.

By Doug Trapp — Posted Jan. 5, 2010

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Medicaid enrollment increased by an average of 4.8% nationally between December 2007 and December 2008 to reach 44.7 million, according to figures compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Six states experienced double-digit increases: Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Maryland and Wisconsin.

Wisconsin led all states with a 16.8% enrollment spike in the 12-month period, in part due to an expansion of Medicaid eligibility in BadgerCare Plus in February 2008. The program increased access to children in families of all incomes, up from 185% of the federal poverty level, said Stephanie Smiley, spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Dept. of Health Services. The state also increased eligibility for pregnant women to 300% of poverty and for parents and caretaker relatives to 200%.

Wisconsin Medicaid enrollment increased from 687,000 in December 2007 to 802,700 a year later, according to the Kaiser figures. "We saw an enormous amount of demand," Smiley said.

Only four states -- Arkansas, Maine, Rhode Island and Tennessee -- saw decreases in their Medicaid populations.

Rhode Island's Medicaid rolls shrank by 4.1%, or about 6,700 people, from 162,600 in December 2007 to 155,900 in December 2008, according to Kaiser.

A few factors contributed to the state's decline, according to Deb Florio, administrator of medical services for the Rhode Island Dept. of Public Health. For example, the Deficit Reduction Act required more stringent proof of citizenship -- including original documents such as birth certificates -- for Medicaid enrollees, which hindered enrollment, she said.

Also, the state eliminated Medicaid coverage for immigrant children and slightly scaled back eligibility for parents, Florio said. Lastly, the state did not conduct any significant Medicaid enrollment outreach. Despite all that, Medicaid enrollment began increasing again in early 2009, she said.

The Kaiser Family Foundation report is available online (link).

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