With open enrollment over, Burwell sets sights on Medicaid expansion

Now that open enrollment is over, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is still trying to figure out a way to get the remaining uninsured the coverage they need.

HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said Friday that her priorities are enrolling more Americans in Affordable Care Act coverage and implementing its provisions, which are designed to improve the quality of care while lowering its cost, according to Kaiser Health News. About 12.7 million Americans signed up for healthcare in the most recent open enrollment period, which ended Jan. 31, and 4 million who signed up on Healthcare.gov were new customers, which HHS sees as a positive sign.

One hurdle to reaching the remaining uninsured is the states that have yet to expand Medicaid through the ACA. Burwell, however, says it isn't a matter of "if" the holdout states will come on borad, but rather "when," according to USA Today. That's because many people still left without coverage are working, she says, and the rate of hospital closures in states that haven't expanded their programs is higher than in states that have.

President Barack Obama also has set his sights on encouraging Medicaid expansion, as he announced he will be offering a financial incentive to states that expand Medicaid in his fiscal year 2017.

Yet low-income individuals aren't the most difficult demographic to reach, Caroline Pearson, senior vice president at consulting firm Avalere Health, tells The Hill.

"The challenge is really middle-income people," Pearson said. "They feel like the coverage is too expensive and they just can't afford it."

To learn more
- here is the KHN article
- read the USA Today article
- check out the Hill piece