More than one in five Americans, or 68 million people, will receive their health coverage through Medicaid this year — more than any other government health program. But as it adds millions of beneficiaries as a result of President Obama’s healthcare law, there is mounting evidence that Medicaid is broken.
Medicaid is administered jointly by the state and federal government, offering health coverage to Americans earning up to about $16,000 in the states participating in Obamacare’s expansion of the program and up to roughly $12,000 in the states that do not.
Providing these benefits comes at a great cost to taxpayers. In fiscal 2013 (even before the program expanded) federal and state governments spent nearly $460 billion combined on Medicaid. Nearly a quarter of money spent by states went to finance the program in 2013, putting it ahead of elementary and secondary education as the biggest component of state budgets, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers.
But all this money being spent to extend coverage to low-income Americans hasn’t necessarily translated to access to healthcare. Because Medicaid doesn’t pay much to compensate doctors, it’s hard to convince doctors to join the program. And even if a doctor is listed as participating in Medicaid, it doesn’t mean beneficiaries can actually get a timely appointment, if they can get one at all.