Medicaid Enrollment Spikes During Pandemic

By: - May 26, 2021 12:00 am

Nationwide, Medicaid enrollment has spiked since the pandemic began. Matt Rourke/The Associated Press

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that two of the states with the highest increase in Medicaid enrollment had previously expanded coverage to low-income adults.

In the 12 months ending in March 2021, nearly 8.5 million more Americans enrolled in Medicaid, the federal-state health program for low-income people, according to a new analysis by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families.

Nationwide, that’s a 17.7% increase since February 2020, the month before the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States. Medicaid enrollment continues to rise, according to the analysis, which includes data from 36 states as of March 2021.

The biggest annual increases were in Utah (37%) and Nebraska (31%), where expanded Medicaid was offered to low-income adults for the first time in 2020.

Outside of those two states, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota and Missouri experienced the steepest increases, with enrollment rising 24% or more in all six states. The lowest rates of increase, 12% or less, were in Alaska, Arkansas, Maryland, Michigan and Tennessee.

In addition to pandemic-related job and income losses, which resulted in millions more Americans qualifying for the low-income health program, the study’s authors attributed the substantial spike in enrollment to expansions for adults in three states: Idaho, Nebraska and Utah. A March 2020 congressionally mandated freeze on kicking people off Medicaid rolls also contributed to the higher enrollment number.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, nationwide Medicaid enrollment totaled 78.9 million as of November 2020.


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Christine Vestal

Christine Vestal covers mental health and drug addiction for Stateline. Previously, she covered health care for McGraw-Hill and the Financial Times.