Enrollment in Medicaid, the public health insurance program for our most vulnerable population, declined in 2006 for the first time in nearly a decade. A new report by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that enrollment growth among the elderly and disabled was 40 percent less in 2006 than it was in 2005. Additionally, the number of children and parents enrolled in Medicaid decreased by 113 percent during this same period.
While this decline is in part due to two positive factors — an improved economy and low unemployment — another factor is at play: the conservatives’ cumbersome new regulation requiring proof of citizenship and identity when applying for Medicaid coverage.
This law was enacted in large part to prevent undocumented immigrants from enrolling in public programs such as Medicaid illegally even though evidence showed that illegal enrollment of undocumented immigrants into the program is not a problem.
What the law has done, however, is caused a drop in enrollment of eligible individuals. Reports are showing that the new rules have “contributed to slower enrollment growth in fiscal year 2007 and caused significant delays in processing applications and increased the administrative burdens placed on states” and individuals. For example:
— Child Medicaid enrollment in Virginia has declined by 4.3 percent among white children.
— Child Medicaid enrollment in Virginia has declined by 5.0 percent for African-American children.
Conservatives and President Bush have claimed to want to “help millions of Americans enjoy better care, new choices, and healthier lives.” But instead, the government has increased barriers for U.S. citizens to attain health insurance, signaling that its priorities are not in line with what is best for the American people.