Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Medicaid insures historic number

USATODAY.com - Medicaid insures historic number
The nation has so vastly extended taxpayer-funded Medicaid to the working poor this decade that it has produced the biggest expansion of a government entitlement since the Great Society was launched in the 1960s, a USA TODAY analysis has found.

With little notice, the medical care program paid by federal and state taxpayers has grown from covering 34 million people in 1999 to 47 million in 2004, an examination of government data shows.

The expansion has won bipartisan support in Washington and state capitals, as a consensus has emerged to provide medical care for the poor, especially children. President Bush has proposed spending $1 billion over two years to encourage eligible families to sign up for Medicaid.

The expansion has had far-reaching consequences:

More children insured. The portion of children without insurance fell from 14.8% in 1997 to 11.7% in 2004, the Health and Human Services Department reports. The rate of young children being vaccinated has increased from 72% in 2000 to a record 81% in 2004.

Higher costs. Medicaid spending grew from $159 billion in 1997 to $295 billion in 2004. That 85% increase is nearly twice the rise in Medicare, which insures seniors. Washington pays 59% of Medicaid's cost; states pay the rest.

Reduced private insurance. Many low-income workers are choosing Medicaid over employer insurance because it is less expensive and often covers more. Medicaid is free or nearly free for recipients. Out-of-pocket costs and the range of services covered vary by state. The percentage of children covered by private insurance fell from 65% in 1999 to 59% in 2004, while those on Medicaid rose from 22% to 29%.


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