Low-income adults formerly had few options for free health care. Leah Sessor had her blood pressure taken on April 14, 2012, during a free clinic at a racetrack in Bristol, Tenn.
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Buried in the paltry enrollment numbers for the Affordable Care Act that were released last week was something that came as a surprise to many — the success states are having signing people up for the Medicaid program, which provides health care to low-income people.
During the first month the health exchanges were open, just over 100,000 people managed to choose a private health plan, according to the report. But nearly four times as many were deemed eligible for Medicaid or actually enrolled in that program or its cousin, the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
But people who have been working on the Affordable Care Act say that’s neither a surprise nor a fair comparison.
“Comparing those numbers today is like comparing apples to baseballs,” says Joan Alker. She’s executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families.
One major reason for the brisk early enrollment in Medicaid is that many states have made it a point to reach out early to people they assume will be eligible, such as those already getting other benefits like food stamps.
The health law opens Medicaid up to everyone earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. That’s just over $15,000 for an individual.
And some states are making it very easy to sign up.
In Arkansas, Alker says,
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