Tens of Thousands of Texans Sign up for Medicaid and CHIP under ACA

New numbers released this week by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare show enrollment in the Texas’ Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program has increased since the Affordable Care Act’s Health Insurance Marketplace opened for business last year.

Advocates for expanding Medicaid in Texas. Via Valda Spence.

According to the report, 4,441,605 Texans were covered through Medicaid and CHIP before open enrollment began in October 2013. Since then and through the end of May of this year, approximately 80,000 more Texans signed up for the program, which right now covers poor adults with children, pregnant women, children, the disabled and poor seniors. That increase, though, is a far cry from the approximately 875,000 uninsured Texans who are eligible for the program but not yet enrolled, not to mention the more than 1 million uninsured adults living below the poverty line who are missing out on coverage thanks to the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid.

Still, increased Affordable Care Act outreach overall, especially as in-person navigators are connecting uninsured individuals with coverage options, may have led to the uptick in traditional Medicaid and CHIP enrollment. Stephanie Goodman, spokesperson for the state Health and Human Services Commission, wrote in an email that the agency expected Medicaid and CHIP enrollment increases, especially among children, as Texans started shopping for insurance last fall via the Health Insurance Marketplace.

As the parents seek coverage through the exchange, they learn that their children can get coverage through the state,” she said. “We'll continue to see increases in Medicaid for the next several months because the enrollment period is now 12 months instead of six.”

Since the Supreme Court in 2012 made expanding Medicaid an option rather than a requirement under the Affordable Care Act, Texas leaders have repeatedly refused to do so, despite studies showing that covering more poor Texans would save the state money. Most recently, the White House released an analysis earlier this month showing that expanding Medicaid in Texas would create approximately 60,000 more jobs by 2017 and lead to better health outcomes, including more patients receiving cholesterol screenings, mammograms, and Pap smears, not to mention $10 billion in savings over the next three years.

As the Current previously reported, Texas’ refusal to expand Medicaid means 179,654 Bexar County residents are left with no option for affordable health coverage, many of whom are working mothers and Latinos. Though efforts to expand the program floundered during the 2013 legislative session, we’ll be reporting on the issue in 2015 as advocates try again.  
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