Costs rising for Obamacare’s Medicaid enrollees: Analysis

by Kimberly Leonard

The cost of healthcare for people enrolled in Medicaid under the Obamacare expansion has been rising steadily over time, according to an analysis by consulting firm Avalere Health.

The findings show that average monthly costs for people who enrolled under Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, which comes at little or no expense to them, rose by an average of 20 percent, from $324 in 2014 to $389 after two and a half years of being enrolled.

The analysis found that healthier enrollees tended to leave the program over time, perhaps because they dropped out or took on a new job where they earned more and no longer qualified for the program. Those who stayed were more likely to have chronic medical needs.

“Contrary to some expectations that Medicaid expansion enrollees would be relatively healthy, beneficiaries who have remained on the program have increasing healthcare needs, likely due to previously unidentified or untreated conditions,” Caroline Pearson, senior vice president at Avalere, said in a statement. “Healthier, lower-cost enrollees may be more likely to churn off Medicaid after a shorter period of time.”

Obamacare was originally written to require all states expand Medicaid to people who were making less than roughly $16,000 a year. Prior to that, states varied in who they covered, but the program typically was extended only to children, people with disabilities and pregnant women. A Supreme Court decision made the Medicaid provision in Obamacare optional for states, leaving 18 without expansion, and Maine, which is in the process of doing so. Read more…