Medicaid enrollment jumps amid pandemic

As Floridians lost jobs during the coronavirus pandemic, tens of thousands of people enrolled in the state’s safety-net health program.

State data show that 3.9 million Floridians were enrolled in Medicaid in April, more than a 4 percent increase over the prior month’s enrollment, according to the latest available numbers from the state. The overall 4.14 percent enrollment increase is the biggest one-month jump since July 2015, when the state started publishing monthly Medicaid information online. The state is expected to release May data in the coming days.

Florida requires most --- but not all --- Medicaid beneficiaries to enroll in managed care plans. The numbers show that enrollment in the plans increased from 2.9 million in March to more than 3 million in April. It’s the first time enrollment in the Medicaid “managed medical assistance” program has topped 3 million since January 2019, according to a review of the data. The remaining 868,108 people receive care through what’s known as a “fee for service” arrangement.

The spike in enrollment may be worse than what state Medicaid officials initially anticipated. An additional 155,721 people enrolled in the program, which serves low-income people, seniors, and people with disabilities, in April. The one-month enrollment growth is greater than a 109,348 increase the Agency for Health Care Administration estimated could occur as a result of the pandemic during the three-month span from April 1 to June 30. 

The News Service of Florida reported last month that AHCA estimated Medicaid costs for the current fiscal year could exceed what was budgeted by $186.9 million if the program were to increase by 109,348 people. That figure took into consideration a 6.2 percentage-point increase in the federal government’s share of Medicaid costs, what is known as the Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage, or FMAP.

The AHCA analysis noted that the economic downturn stemming from the pandemic could blow upward of a $1 billion hole in the Medicaid budget in the state fiscal year 2020-2021 budget, which takes effect July 1.