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5.8 Million Americans Still Uninsured After States Refuse To Expand Medicaid

Interim Columbia Police Chief Ruben Santiago tells a protestor that she will be arrested if she does not stop blocking the road into the garage at the South Carolina Statehouse on Tuesday, March 4, 2014, in Columbia, S.C. Eleven people were arrested as part of Truthful Tuesday protests, demonstrating against the state's decision not to accept federal money to expand Medicaid.

CREDIT: AP/Jeffrey Collins.

The refusal to expand Medicaid leaves about 5.8 million Americans uninsured and a study done by Harvard researchers estimates that 17,000 will die as a direct result of states’ refusal to expand Medicaid. Still, states continue to refuse to expand without regard to the human cost or potential financial savings and are running out of reasons for denying participation in Medicaid expansion.

Data recently released by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) indicates states that could save more money by expanding Medicaid than the organization previously predicted. Initially, the CBO estimated that state spending on Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medicaid would be about $70 billion more over the next 10 years due to the expansion.

However now, the financial effect of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been lowered to about a third of the cost at $46 billion.  That means that states would only have to pay about 1.6 percent more on public health programs than they are paying without the expansionnot factoring in the potential long-term savings.

Edwin Park, Vice President for Health Policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities stated, “Health reform’s Medicaid expansion, which many opponents wrongly claim will cripple state budgets, is an even better deal for states than previously thought.”

Many states that have not yet expanded have been weary of the “woodwork effect.

The woodwork effect, as ThinkProgress article explains, is what health policy experts use to describe the assumption that as “Obamacare enrollment raises people’s awareness about their health options, people who could have signed up for Medicaid before health reform took effect will come out of the woodwork and enroll.

This leaves the states responsible for a larger sum of the cost for these people.

Since the CBO now predicts the woodwork effect to be smaller than expected, so are the costs.

Another reason why states have refused to expand Medicaid is simply because they believe it would be too expensive or the federal government will back out of their financial commitment.

However, a recent study proves that the newer individuals who are signing up for Medicaid are physically and mentally more healthy than those already enrolled into the program. Meaning, Obamacare is not flooding the Medicaid pool with sick and costly patients.

Rhonda Brown is a young writer covering health care.

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