Medicaid expansion would cut healthcare disparities in the South, report says

Southerners are more likely to be uninsured, have chronic illnesses and experience worse health outcomes than people in other areas of the country, and expanding Medicaid eligibility in Southern states would go a long way toward reducing these disparities, according to a brief from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Compared to other regions in the U.S., Medicaid and CHIP eligibility levels are far more limited in the South. The brief says that this is a reflection of the fact that most states in the region have not adopted the Affordable Care Act Medicaid expansion for adults.

As of January, 10 of the 17 states in the South are not moving forward with the Medicaid expansion, and those that have adopted the Medicaid expansion generally have lower uninsured rates as of 2014 compared to those that have not adopted the expansion.

The South includes about one-third of the total U.S. population, and in states that did not implement Medicaid expansion, many poor adults fall into a coverage gap. If all states were to expand Medicaid, 61 percent of uninsured Southerners would be eligible for coverage, and the percentage eligible for Medicaid would rise from 16 to 44, the brief states.

President Barack Obama's proposed 2017 budget includes incentives for states to expand Medicaid, and newly elected Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards recently signed an executive order that will expand Medicaid coverage in his state. But the KFF brief says more must be done to reduce coverage gaps in the South.

"Outreach and enrollment efforts will be key for getting these individuals into coverage," the brief authors write. "If all states were to expand Medicaid, the coverage gap would be eliminated and potential coverage gains in the region would be significantly larger."

To learn more:
- here is the KFF brief

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