By Lauren Bremer
When it was first created in 1965, Medicaid was intended to insure low income individuals. Since then, it has grown vastly, now covering mental health, substance abuse programs, HIV treatments, children, pregnant women, and seniors—in total more than 75 million Americans.
The U.S. government has tried to provide insurance to every American unable to afford independent coverage, and has modified Medicaid from its original purpose in order to provide services for as many individuals as possible based upon their varying needs. As a program which serves a broad spectrum of the population, Medicaid has very diverse demographics. 60% of enrollees are currently employed and 74% have at least a high school degree. Children still comprise the majority of beneficiaries, but by far the largest percentage of funding goes towards people with disabilities.
Medicaid began covering individuals with disabilities in 1972. Today, 40% of the spending is dedicated to serving 15% of its disabled enrollees. Medicaid covers a quarter of the national spending on mental health services, and one-fifth of spending on substance abuse rehabilitation treatments. While these medical conditions were not originally covered by Medicaid, the program has grown because of the prevalence and overwhelming need in the U.S.
When legislators passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, Medicaid expanded even further. The purpose of the ACA was to bridge the gap developing in health insurance in the U.S. and give coverage to a larger population previously ineligible for Medicaid. While it will be difficult to ensure coverage for every uninsured person in the nation, the ACA brought us one step closer. An additional 20 million people have received healthcare coverage because of the expansion so far. That number may still increase with voting on the expansion set to take place in several states within the next few months. Maine is the most recent state to approve the expansion and could cover an additional 70,000 residents with Medicaid. However, the future of the Affordable Care Act and 75 million Americans remains uncertain as talks of repeal continue.
Source: Kaiser Health News