As states have begun clearing out their Medicaid rolls for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly three quarters of the Americans who’ve lost coverage have been terminated not because they’re ineligible for the low-income health insurance program, but due to administrative reasons, such as failing to quickly respond to a piece of mail. In February, President Joe Biden bragged in his State of the Union speech that “more Americans have health insurance now than ever in history.” Biden made that comment six weeks after he set the stage to massively increase the United States’ uninsured population, when he signed legislation from Congress ending the pandemic-era requirement that states maintain Medicaid beneficiaries’ coverage in exchange for extra federal funding.
More than 600,000 Americans have lost Medicaid coverage since pandemic protections ended on April 1. And a KFF Health News analysis of state data shows the vast majority were removed from state rolls for not completing paperwork. Under normal circumstances, states review their Medicaid enrollment lists regularly to ensure every recipient qualifies for coverage. But because of a nationwide pause in those reviews during the pandemic, the health insurance program for low-income and disabled Americans kept people covered even if they no longer qualified. Now, in what’s known as the Medicaid unwinding, states are combing through rolls and deciding who stays and who goes.
Privatization of public programs such as Medicare and Medicaid has been proceeding rapidly in recent years with little coverage by the media of its harms to patients, the public and taxpayers. This article has four goals: (1) to bring brief historical perspective to this trend in the U. S.; (2) to shed light on the experience over the last 12 years of profiteering by UnitedHealth Group, now the largest U. S. private health insurer; (3) to describe negative impacts on our health care system; and (4) to briefly consider lessons that can be learned from this concerted and stealthy exploitation of the public interest through the corporate greed of UnitedHealth.
The Biden administration is poised to allow the national emergency on COVID-19 to expire on May 11, 2023. Once that occurs, between 5 to 14 million Americans previously covered under Medicaid will lose their insurance. Although the pandemic continues to rage, killing thousands and infecting hundreds of thousands each week, a bipartisan consensus has settled in Washington to simply pretend COVID-19 is “over.” What meager safety net was extended at the start of the pandemic is now being rolled back—leaving Americans to shoulder the risks and expenses of illness and death entirely on their own. Dr. Margaret Flowers joins The Chris Hedges Report to discuss the toll that COVID denialism will have on our society, and the generally outrageous state of US healthcare.
As US-based news is inundated with coverage surrounding the spectacle of former president Donald Trump’s arraignment, 15 million people are being quietly phased out of receiving Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) benefits, beginning April 1 and going through May and July. As the Joe Biden administration will end the COVID-19 public health emergency declaration on May 11, starting this past weekend states have already begun to kick people off of Medicaid and CHIP. These states are all Republican Party-controlled: Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, New Hampshire, and South Dakota.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, whose administration is struggling to contain a worsening homelessness crisis despite record spending, is trying something bold: tapping federal health care funding to cover rent for homeless people and those at risk of losing their housing. States are barred from using federal Medicaid dollars to pay directly for rent, but California’s governor is asking the administration of President Joe Biden, a fellow Democrat, to authorize a new program called “transitional rent,” which would provide up to six months of rent or temporary housing for low-income enrollees who rely on the state’s health care safety net — a new initiative in his arsenal of programs to fight and prevent homelessness.
A new analysis released Monday shows that insurance giants are benefiting hugely from the accelerating privatization of Medicare and Medicaid, which for-profit companies have infiltrated via government programs such as Medicare Advantage. According to the report from Wendell Potter, a former insurance executive who now advocates for systemic healthcare reform, government programs are now the source of roughly 90% of the health plan revenues of Humana, Centene, and Molina. Over the past decade, Potter found, the seven top for-profit insurance companies in the U.S.—the three mentioned above plus UnitedHealth, Cigna, CVS/Aetna, and Elevance—have seen their combined revenues from taxpayer-backed programs soar by 500%, reaching $577 billion in 2022 compared to $116.3 billion in 2012.
Hey, have you heard about “Medicaid divorce”? It’s this trendy thing where people get divorced because it’s the only way to allow one partner to qualify for the Medicaid they need to live their lives, because if they’re married, they’re too rich. That’s a nightmare, not to mention in a country where some people get to forget how many houses they own. But corporate media’s response has seemed to be just a bunch of articles about how maybe you, as an individual, might potentially game the system, like Kiplinger‘s “How to Restructure Your Assets to Qualify for Medicaid.” And then sort of, “well, would you look at that” pieces about the phenomenon, like Newsweek‘s “Internet Backs Wife’s Plan to Divorce Husband After Cancer Diagnosis.” There are, of course, many people who couldn’t conscience the idea that having a disability, or a partner with a disability, should mean choosing between your marriage and your healthcare.
Since the start of the pandemic, Medicaid, the federal and state program to provide health insurance to low income Americans, has been far more generous than in the past. Enrollment is higher than ever, at 77.8 million. This isn’t because of some nationwide change of heart in state governments; it’s because states were paid to stop cutting people from their Medicaid rolls. Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the first coronavirus relief bill passed in March 2020, states received a 6.2 percent boost in federal Medicaid funding in exchange for halting disenrollments. The usual process of conducting “redeterminations,” in which states redetermine whether a beneficiary’s income levels or other factors still qualify them for Medicaid, has been paused for almost two years.
Under the Build Back Better Act, Congress can expand and strengthen Medicare and Medicaid, improving the lives of millions of seniors while also throwing a lifeline to folks living in states where GOP politicians are strangling public benefits. But to win these popular reforms, we have to defeat the efforts of Big Pharma, their greedy lobbyists and the politicians who take their money. It wasn’t enough for Democratic Representatives Kurt Schrader of Oregon, Scott Peters of California, Kathleen Rice of New York and Stephanie Murphy of Florida to vote against a robust bill that would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act (H.R. 3).
For almost a decade, advocates in Missouri have been lobbying their legislators to expand Medicaid coverage in the red state. Since the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act was optional, 36 states plus Washington, D.C., have adopted and implemented the expansion. In those states where coverage has not been expanded, the decision has come at a devastating cost to Americans who fall into the "coverage gap," advocates said. "When the Affordable Care Act was originally passed, folks who were making up to 138% of the federal poverty level were supposed to be on Medicaid.
Across the United States, poor and dispossessed people cannot wait for our politicians to act. This week, in states including Kansas, Maine, Alabama, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Vermont, and Pennsylvania, people are coming together in “Medicaid Marches” to demand their right to health and healthcare. They know that Black people are dying at twice the rate of white people and that poverty is the highest risk factor for people of all races. They know that the United States now accounts for over 20 percent of worldwide deaths, despite having only 5 percent of the world’s population and that this was entirely preventable.
On July 30, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare and Medicaid into law. This crowning achievement was both the culmination of a decades-long effort to attain guaranteed universal health insurance and the first step in the quest for Medicare for All. In the 55 years since the legislation was signed into law, both programs have proven their worth. Before Medicare, about half of seniors lacked health insurance. They were an illness away from bankruptcy. Today, 99.1 percent of Americans 65 and older are insured, thanks to Medicare.
In a decision which warmed my heart on a cold Valentine’s Day here in Washington, the federal Court of Appeals issued an unanimous opinion striking down the Arkansas work requirements waiver. In doing so, it upheld district court Judge Boasberg’s decision vacating the Arkansas’ Section 1115 waiver (including most famously Medicaid work requirements) because it was “arbitrary and capricious” and therefore violated the Administrative Procedures Act.
July 30 marks a very important anniversary in our modern political history. Fifty-three years ago in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare and Medicaid into law, creating two programs that would disproportionately improve the lives of older and low-income Americans — especially women. Fast-forward to 2018, and both programs are very much under siege. Nowhere is the struggle starker than in the House Republican budget — titled “A Brighter American Future” — now on Capitol Hill. The importance of Medicare as a source of women’s health coverage can’t be over-emphasized. Older and disabled women make up more than half the total beneficiaries, and two-thirds of those 85 and over.