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Medicaid enrollment ahead of forecasts

About half of Ohioans expected to enroll in Medicaid by this time next year under newly expanded eligibility requirements have already signed up for coverage, according to a recent report from Ohio Medicaid.

By the end of April, 184,671 newly eligible Ohioans had enrolled in Medicaid through the new Ohio Benefits eligibility system at, according to the report. That was just over 50 percent of the estimated 366,000 Ohioans expected to join the state and federally funded health insurance program for the poor by June 2015 under new guidelines created by the Affordable Care Act.

The state Controlling Board in Ohio voted last October to accept funding for expansion, which Gov. John Kasich had requested in his original budget proposal for the current fiscal year.

Prior to expansion, Medicaid limited coverage mainly to pregnant women and children and the aged, blind, or disabled.

The health care law extended eligibility to most adults earning up 138 percent of federal poverty level, or just over $15,000 a year for an individual or $32,000 for a family of four. But the Supreme Court ruled that states could opt out of expansion, and, so far, only 26 states and the District of Columbia have elected to participate in the expanded program.

In addition, the state continues to process applications for 245,700 Ohioans that were pending in the federal system for enrollment in Medicaid, including new and previously eligible applicants.

Of those, about 20,000 have already been processed by the state, and applications for 39,000 Ohioans were slated to be processed last month, according to the report. A total of 93,700 applicants were determine ineligible for Medicaid, and 66,000 were already in the state system.

More complex cases are being transferred to county caseworkers across the state, including applications for 27,000 Ohioans that were sent out last month to be processed.

Montgomery County caseworkers have received more than 400 cases from the state, according to Patrick Bailey, Montgomery County’s deputy assistant director of social services and income support.

“We’ve been getting cases for the past several weeks,” Bailey said. “They’ve been coming down in small batches, and it’s really hard for me to tell how many of those people are brand new. But I’m guessing most of them would be because if they’re already on Medicaid then we would most likely deny them because they’re already receiving assistance.”

Even with less than full participation by states, as the health care law originally intended, there were 65 million Americans enrolled in Medicaid by the end of April — six million more than there had been prior to expansion, the Obama administration said Wednesday.

In Ohio, there are currently about 2.5 million residents on the state’s Medicaid rolls, and more than a half million have applied for Medicaid coverage since expansion was adopted, with about 73 percent of those applications being processed, Ohio Medicaid reported.

Gregg Hopkins, executive director of Community Health Centers of Greater Dayton, said his clinic has already begun to see a flood of newly eligible Medicaid recipients.

“We have already begun to see a significant shift in the percentage of patients coming in to see us toward Medicaid,” Hopkins said. “The expansion has definitely been helpful, and we’ve seen the results in just the first five months of the year.”

Expansion is expected to bring an estimated $13.5 billion into state coffers by 2020, during which time the federal government will pick up 100 percent of the cost of expanding for the first three years before reducing its contribution gradually to 90 percent.

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