Medicaid’s Role for Women

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Kaiser Health News - Women's Health Policy

Medicaid, the nation’s health coverage program for poor and low-income people, provides millions of low-income women across the nation with health and long-term care coverage. Women comprise the majority of the adult Medicaid population—before the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and today. For women, the program offers coverage of a wide range of primary, preventive, specialty, and long-term care services which are important to them across their lifespans. Given the critical lifeline that the program provides for low-income women and their families, changes to the program financing and structure have significant implications for low-income women’s access to coverage and care.

Who is Eligible for Coverage?

In 2014, the most recent date that national enrollment statistics are available, women comprised 36% of the overall Medicaid population and the majority of adults on the program (Figure 1). Prior to the ACA, women were more likely to qualify for Medicaid because of their lower incomes and because they were more likely to belong to one of Medicaid’s categories of eligibility: pregnant, parent of a dependent child, senior, or disability. The ACA, as signed by President Obama, eliminated these categories by extending Medicaid eligibility to all individuals with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level (FPL).1 The 2012 Supreme Court ruling in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius however made the Medicaid expansion optional for states, resulting in inconsistent coverage policies across the country.

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