The New York Times reports that Medicaid expansion has been a huge success in West Virginia:
Enrollment in private insurance plans has been sluggish, but sign-ups for Medicaid, the federal insurance program for the poor, have surged in many states. Here in West Virginia, which has some of the shortest life spans and highest poverty rates in the country, the strength of the demand has surprised officials, with more than 75,000 people enrolling in Medicaid….In West Virginia, where the Democratic governor agreed to expand Medicaid eligibility, the number of uninsured people in the state has been reduced by about a third.
It’s not just West Virginia, either. Probably not, anyway. Charles Gaba, who is basically the Nate Silver of Obamacare numbers, writes today that he’s now pretty sure the total number of enrollments in Medicaid since October 1st isn’t the 4 million or so that we previously thought, but more likely 6.2 million. We still don’t know for sure how many of these represent new enrollments vs. re-enrollments, but the higher number makes it pretty likely that a very large chunk of this 6.2 million are new enrollees. Anecdotal evidence backs this up, and preliminary figures from the states that break out new enrollees separately suggest that roughly two-thirds of total signups are new enrollees.
If that’s true, it means that about 4 million new people have signed up for Medicaid since October 1st. That’s 4 million people who feel like this:
Waitresses, fast food workers, security guards and cleaners described feeling intense relief that they are now protected from the punishing medical bills that have punched holes in their family budgets. They spoke in interviews of reclaiming the dignity they had lost over years of being turned away from doctors’ offices because they did not have insurance.
“You see it in their faces,” said Janie Hovatter, a patient advocate at Cabin Creek Health Systems, a health clinic in southern West Virginia. “They just kind of relax.”
We’re the richest country in the world. We can afford this.