August 4, 2011

Now that unemployment levels have begun to level off and are now slowly falling in many parts of Florida, enrollment in Florida Medicaid appears to be plateauing as well.  

Although statewide seasonally-adjusted unemployment levels reached its highest level last December, Medicaid enrollment has yet to fully peak, however.  This time lag may be explained, at least in part, by factors such as laid-off workers exhausting their COBRA continuation coverage and unemployed parents retaining access to Medicaid for a transitional period after returning to work.  (It should be noted that Medicaid numbers are affected by factors unrelated to the economy.  Demographic factors such as the aging of Florida’s population are also relevant.)

Medicaid enrollment for July 2011 was about 2.92 million, down almost 3,800 (-0.1 percent) from the previous month. Such isolated month-to-month reductions are not uncommon, however.  More pertinent are longer-term trends that indicate rapidly tapering growth.  In particular:

  • The year-over-year increase (July 2011 vs. July 2010) was 6.5 percent, the smallest such increase since July 2008.  By comparison, the year-over-year increase for November 2009 was a staggering 17.4 percent.
  • During the first six months of 2011, enrollment grew by 81,450, the smallest half-year increase since the first half of 2008.  Medicaid grew by 2½ times that amount during the first six months of 2009.

Given that the growth in Medicaid spending during the recession has been outpaced by the growth in the Medicaid rolls, legislators’ spurious claim that Medicaid spending is spiraling out of control may also be about out of gas.

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