HOUSTON -- The number of Texans enrolled in Medicaid has grown by 80,000 despite the Texas Legislature's decision last year to reject the program's expansion under the federal Affordable Care Act.
Health officials attribute the spike that began last summer and extended until May to greater public awareness about the health care reform law. Many people were made aware of their Medicaid eligibility when they inquired about joining the federal insurance marketplace created by the law, according to the Houston Chronicle (http://bit.ly/Ua69ub ).
The Kaiser Family Foundation says an estimated 875,000 Texans are eligible for Medicaid but have not applied.
The national Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services reports more than 4.5 million Texans receive some level of federal health coverage, with most being children.
Nationally, Medicaid enrollment rose by 6.65 million from last summer to May.
The surge in Texas recipients likely would have been greater if the state had accepted a Medicaid expansion, which would have increased eligibility up to 133 percent of the federal poverty line, according to the Chronicle. A recent White House report says expansion would have covered an additional 1.2 million Texans by 2016.
But lawmakers said it would be too expensive, despite the federal government's promise to pay almost all of the increased costs in at least its first years.
"We are seeing a natural expansion of folks who qualify for Medicaid even without expanding the criteria under Obamacare," state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, said in a statement. "Expanding the criteria would only force more people into a broken system."
State Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, said the enrollment surge "points to the tremendous need" for health coverage, and the need to expand Medicaid.