by Brenée Goforth
Communications Associate, John Locke Foundation
The outbreak of Coronavirus has reignited calls for Medicaid expansion. Proponents claim that during this public health crisis, it is necessary to expand Medicaid to cover uninsured persons who may catch the virus. However, as JLF’s Jordan Roberts explains in his recent research brief, expanding Medicaid is not necessary for the testing and treatment of the uninsured for Coronavirus. Roberts writes:
Congress passed several bills to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. Many of the provisions dealt with the treatment of individuals that may have contracted the coronavirus. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) provided funding for the states to test those who are uninsured. The astonishing, deficit-financed, $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides funding for uninsured people who need treatment. While it’s regrettable the federal budget was in such bad shape before this pandemic, the state does not need to duplicate these services by expanding Medicaid in any capacity. Instead, the state should focus on allocating resources to ensure that core government functions can continue. The state needs to resist making significant changes to the Medicaid program, such as expanding the program to non-traditional populations.
Even without expansion, the amount of lost jobs and economic hardship caused by this crisis is going to drive significant increases in Medicaid enrollment. This means state governments are going to have to find millions of dollars to fund the healthcare of these additional enrollees. Expanding even further to non-traditional Medicaid populations would run the tab up even further. This is a problem, as Roberts explains:
As lawmakers begin to evaluate massive drops in tax revenues, we must keep in mind that the state has limited resources and a balanced budget requirement. Unlike the federal government, state debt is limited, so a dollar spent now is a dollar that we cannot spend in the future…
NCDHHS recommended that the state temporarily expand Medicaid eligibility to 200% of the federal poverty level for as long as the COVID-19 emergency period lasts. Early estimates indicate this would cost the state at least $240 million over the first six months, probably more depending on the duration of the emergency. There is no need for such a vast expansion of Medicaid given other steps targeted to help the uninsured with coronavirus testing and treatment.
Medicaid expansion would create duplicative coverage for the uninsured and charge the state significant costs during a time where the state is losing revenue quickly. Expanding Medicaid is not necessary for the treatment of Coronavirus, and it is bad fiscal policy.