COLUMBUS, Ohio — With the joblessness accompanying the coronavirus pandemic, more Ohioans are turning to Medicaid for health coverage.
About 3 million people are now on Medicaid, Ohio Medicaid Director Maureen Corcoran said Tuesday.
“We had an increase in the number of people by about 140,000 from the end of March until the end of April,” she said.
That’s a huge increase, considering Medicaid rolls had been sliding downward for the last couple of years.
In July 2017, there were nearly 3.1 million people receiving health care through the joint state and federal program, which targets lower income and disabled Ohioans. Month-by-month since then, the number went down, hitting a low of just over 2.7 million in November 2019.
At the time of the decrease, state officials and social welfare experts had attributed the decrease to an improved economy providing more jobs, a decrease in advertising from the White House under President Donald Trump, and problems with Ohio’s benefits system.
But the coronavirus-related economic slump is wiping that out. Meantime, Ohio Medicaid is being cut by $210 million as part of $775 million being cut from state government, thanks to lower revenues during the pandemic.
Medicaid officials aren’t planning to cut services for enrollees but by trying to negotiate lower rates with managed care organizations, which are the private insurers contracted to administer the program with the patients and health care providers. During the first weeks of the pandemic, the state prohibited elective procedures so the insurers sent less money to the providers.
John Corlett, president of the Center for Community Solutions, a Cleveland health and social services think tank, said the new people enrolling in Ohio Medicaid are likely healthier than the existing enrollees, since they likely had health care through employers and were healthy enough to work. He doesn’t expect them to cost the program as much as longtime Medicaid patients.
“The case mix should be better,” he said. “They should have more healthier people in the program than before.”