Thousands Join Medicaid Rolls as Pandemic Causes Unemployment to Spike
As the novel coronavirus continues to touch nearly every aspect of American life, the U.S. unemployment rate hit 14.7% in April 2020, a level not seen since the Great Depression. And the speed at which job losses are mounting is unprecedented — in February 2020, the unemployment rate was just 3.5%. Without employer-sponsored coverage, many Americans have become newly eligible for Medicaid in recent months. States that have reported Medicaid enrollment data for April, May or June 2020 have seen an average Medicaid enrollment increase of 4% from the first quarter of 2020 to the second quarter. That’s a significant change from the previous trend, as nationwide Medicaid enrollment actually dropped 0.6% from the fourth quarter of 2019 to the first quarter of 2020. Though the full national picture is not yet in focus, of the 31 states that have released second-quarter Medicaid data, none have seen a decrease in sign-ups. Enrollment growth is especially evident in states that expanded Medicaid to certain adult populations under the Affordable Care Act, such as Rhode Island (9.4% increase), Kentucky (7.5% increase) and Arizona (6.3% increase). While many states have begun to reopen, true economic recovery is almost impossible to predict, particularly without a COVID-19 vaccine and the looming threat of a “second wave” of the virus.