Federal figures show Georgia’s Medicaid and PeachCare enrollment jumped 16 percent since October; the highest percentage increase among states that rejected the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
The Georgia jump greatly exceeds that of the second-highest increase among non-expansion states ‑ 9.5 percent in Montana.
Expanding Medicaid involves extending enrollment in the government program to many low-income people who had not previously been eligible.
As a group, the states not pursuing expansion saw enrollment in Medicaid and their Children’s Health Insurance Program rise by 4 percent. The children’s program is called PeachCare in Georgia.
States embracing Medicaid expansion saw an average increase in enrollment of 18.5 percent since October, when open enrollment on the health insurance exchanges began.
The enrollment data from the Department of Health and Human Services, released last week, are part of various studies underscoring the insurance changes created through the ACA.
Yet Georgia Medicaid officials on Monday released figures that showed a much smaller percentage hike in Medicaid and PeachCare enrollment since October – 5.6 percent, rising by more than 100,000 to almost 1.9 million members.
A spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Community Health said Monday state officials had not yet had the opportunity to study the federal report fully.
There have been past discrepancies on Medicaid enrollment between what federal figures show and what state officials have reported.
Tim Sweeney, health policy director for the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, said Monday the difference in those figures makes him cautious about drawing conclusions from the HHS data.
Still, he said, Georgia was known prior to the ACA to have a large number of people who were already eligible for Medicaid and PeachCare, but had not enrolled. They could sign up whether the state opted for expansion or not.
The ACA was expected to lead tens of thousands of these Georgians – mostly children – to join Medicaid and PeachCare because of the “woodwork effect” (people coming out of the woodwork).
Last week, a nationwide survey conducted by Gallup showed the percentage of Georgians who don’t have health insurance declined slightly this year ‑ 21.4 percent last year to 20.2 percent this year.
Another recent report, done by the Urban Institute, noted that Georgia’s decision not to expand Medicaid will cost the state’s hospitals $12.8 billion in lost reimbursements over a 10-year period.
The Urban Institute study, released this month, tracked the effect on hospitals in other states not expanding the government program. The states with the greatest financial impact on hospitals over 10 years are Texas, at $34.3 billion, and Florida, at $22.6 billion.