Viewpoint: Federal government should bolster Medicaid during pandemic

As millions lose their jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic, millions are also likely to lose health insurance and to enroll in Medicaid, which will put enormous strain on state budgets. In a June 11, 2020 viewpoint article in JAMA, two experts argued that the federal government should step in to support states financially while shoring up the safety net health insurance program, and to ensure continuing health care coverage for low-income Americans in need.

The article was co-authored by Benjamin Sommers, professor of health policy and economics at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Sommers and co-author Heidi Allen of Columbia University pointed out that, during recessions such as the current one in the U.S., Medicaid enrollments go up while state tax revenues decrease—and the financial pressures are likely to be substantial during the coronavirus pandemic. “COVID-19 is no ordinary economic crisis,” they wrote.

They noted that the economic and health consequences for low-income populations could be worse in the 13 states that have not yet opted to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. “In a time when tens of millions of people are losing jobs and health insurance, closing the so-called ‘Medicaid gap’ in nonexpansion states should be a top priority,” they wrote.

They offered a number of recommendations as to how government agencies and Congress could help support Medicaid during the pandemic, as well as actions that states can take.

Read the JAMA article: Medicaid and COVID-19: At the Center of Both Health and Economic Crises

Learn more

The case for expanding Medicaid in the time of coronavirus (Harvard Chan School news)