Medicaid is a safety net program that works

The purpose of a safety net is to catch you if you fall, and hopefully, help you bounce back. Safety net programs are only effective if they are responsive to need in society. One of the main criticisms of safety net programs like TANF is that they failed to respond to increased need during the recession, and let too many families hit rock bottom. In the District, Medicaid is one exception to this criticism. As the number of children eligible for Medicaid/CHIP increased due to the recession, the Urban Institute reported that most states kept pace with need and increased their enrollment of eligible children.

D.C. Medicaid/CHIP expanded to serve 97% of eligible children in 2009, the highest participation rate in the nation. D.C is one of only 16 states with more than 90% of eligible children enrolled in Medicaid/CHIP.
In 2010, 60% of D.C. children and youth ages 0-21 were enrolled in Medicaid/CHIP. Our recent policy snapshot  explores the uptick in enrollment during the recession, as well as other important features of the program. The bottom line is that Medicaid is a critical factor in securing primary and preventative care for low-income children in the District.


From 2008 to 2009, the District was even able to increase its already high participation rate by 0.9 percentage points. Enrollment was given a boost by the reauthorization of CHIP in 2009, which provided states with additional federal funding for enrollment efforts. For the near-term, funding continues, with $40 million in grants recently announced to help states eligible children up for health insurance.

Of course, bad news may be just around the corner, as the congressional super-committee considers budget cuts to recommend by Thanksgiving.  Medicaid and other entitlement programs are on the table for potentially deep cuts to slash the nation’s deficit by $1.5 trillion. Reigning in the deficit is necessary, but we can’t afford to have the enrollments gains of the recent years erased.