In the news: Rising Medicaid enrollment during COVID-19

Yesterday, Kaiser Health News reported that Medicaid enrollment is increasing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In an article entitled the COVID-19 Downturn Triggers Jump in Medicaid Enrollment, they note that between February and April of 2020, 1.2 million Americans were newly enrolled in the health program that is funded by both the state and federal governments—not surprising, considering that the latest number of Americans out of work hovers at 30 million and job loss frequently also means loss of health insurance.

The pandemic has hit state budgets hard as shutdowns and business closures have had a big impact on state tax revenue. States may need to cut services just as their residents need them more than ever. Until the pandemic is under control and Americans can go back to work, the federal government needs to step in and help.

We know how important primary care and nephrology are to the 37 million Americans with kidney disease and have seen how Medicaid can help people delay or avoid dialysis. One study showed that for every 10% of low-income nonelderly population gaining access to Medicaid, there was a 1.8% reduction in kidney failure. That’s why we have been advocating for an increase in the federal portion of Medicaid costs, known as the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP). The American Kidney Fund (AKF) and a broad coalition of patient advocacy groups were successful in obtaining a small increase of 6.2% in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act that was signed into law on March 18.

We need to do more. As more people enroll in Medicaid the costs will go up. We are now advocating for an FMAP increase up to 12% and for legislation that would automatically increase the FMAP when a state’s unemployment rate increases. It would ensure that kidney patients have access to the health care that they need. Please help us by taking two minutes to email your elected officials through our website to ask them to help people avoid or delay kidney failure and dialysis by increasing the FMAP.

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About the Author

Deborah Darcy

Deborah Darcy is the director of government relations at the American Kidney Fund.

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