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University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

Medicaid Enrollment Increasing, says PA Medicaid Policy Center at Pitt’s GSPH

PITTSBURGH, April 6, 2010 – Recent economic hardships have put substantial pressure on Pennsylvania’s health care safety net programs, which have experienced significant increases in enrollment, according to a report that was issued online today from the Pennsylvania Medicaid Policy Center (PMPC) at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH).

As of February 2010, 17 percent of Pennsylvania’s population, or more than 2 million people, were covered by the Medicaid program known as Medical Assistance, which pays for medical and long-term care for low-income state residents; and 196,220 Pennsylvania children were covered by the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which currently pays for health coverage of children in families with incomes up to and including 300 percent of the federal poverty level.

“The two programs provide coverage for almost one-fifth of Pennsylvania’s population,” said PMPC director Judith R. Lave, Ph.D., who also is a professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at GSPH. “The Medical Assistance costs alone currently account for 16.2 percent of the state general fund and, as the recession continues and the unemployment rate remains high, the demand for coverage through both of these programs will likely stay significantly high.”

According to the report, from July 2006 to June 2009, Medical Assistance enrollment rose by 12.1 percent in adults and 9.2 percent among children. In the same time frame, CHIP enrollment rose by 34.7 percent.

The Federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services projected in October 2008 that nationwide Medicaid enrollment would increase at an average annual rate of 1.2 percent for the next 10 years, but that prediction did not factor in the impact of the economic recession that began in December 2007, the researchers said.

“Pennsylvania’s rate of enrollment increase for the current state fiscal year is 3.3 percent,” Dr. Lave said. “And, as other national analyses have shown, as the unemployment rate ticks up, more people must enroll in these medical assistance programs. Even after a recession ends from a national standpoint, there is a one- to two-year lag before state fiscal conditions recover.”

From January 2008 to February 2010, the state’s unemployment rate almost doubled, with a corresponding 13.3 percent increase (nearly 253,000 individuals) in enrollment in Medical Assistance.

Monica R. Costlow, J.D., PMPC, and Rachel Garfield, Ph.D., Department of Health Policy and Management, GSPH, co-authored the report, which is available at www.pamedicaid.pitt.edu.

About the Pennsylvania Medicaid Policy Center

The Pennsylvania Medicaid Policy Center (PMPC) is an independent and non-partisan source of information and analysis about the Commonwealth’s Medical Assistance program. It aims to increase understanding of the structure and parameters of the Medicaid program in Pennsylvania as well as its role in the state’s health care system. In addition, the PMPC seeks to assess and inform the development of policy options and long-term strategies that would best serve the program’s constituents. The PMPC is funded through The Pew Charitable Trusts and other foundations throughout the Commonwealth.

About the Graduate School of Public Health

The University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH), founded in 1948 and now one of the top-ranked schools of public health in the United States, conducts research on public health and medical care that improves the lives of millions of people around the world. GSPH is a leader in devising new methods to prevent and treat cardiovascular diseases, HIV/AIDS, cancer and other important public health problems.

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