Obama offers incentive to spur more states to expand Medicaid

Hoping more states will expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama will offer a financial incentive in his proposed fiscal year 2017 budget, according to the White House.

That action will keep the door open for 19 states that previously passed up on the opportunity for the federal government to help pay to expand Medicaid coverage to more low-income Americans.

In its proposal to extend the deadline, the government would provide the same three years of full federal support and gradual phase down that states that originally expanded in 2014 received, no matter when the state takes that option.

Some Republican governors have opposed Medicaid expansion because they believe it is costly and unnecessary, but expanding the program in the remaining 19 states would provide health insurance coverage to more than four million low-income people, according to the White House.

Obama's announcement also cited a recent study that compared two states that expanded Medicaid, Arkansas and Kentucky, to Texas, which did not. The expansion states saw an increase in residents with chronic conditions getting regular medical care, and a decrease in residents skipping medications because of cost or having trouble paying medical bills.

However, Obama will need the Republican-controlled Congress to approve the proposed extension, a move that is unlikely given many Republicans hope to repeal the ACA, according to Kaiser Health News. "It is a sound idea and might entice some states, but it seems unlikely that Congress will pass this in 2016," Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown Center for Children and Families, told KHN.

Obama will discuss his proposal today at a town hall in Louisiana, which this week became the 31st state, plus the District of Columbia, to expand Medicaid eligibility under the ACA, when newly elected Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, signed an executive order.

To learn more:
- read the White House announcement
- read the Kaiser Health News report