Medicaid Expansion Boosts Coverage and Services for People With Disabilities, Despite Critics’ Claims

By Jesse Cross-Call | April 7, 2021

Policymakers in states that haven’t expanded Medicaid are giving it new consideration, in part because of the American Rescue Plan’s large new financial incentive to do so. Expansion opponents have turned to a familiar, and debunked, talking point in response: that funding expansion harms the “truly needy” by forcing seniors and people with disabilities onto waiting lists for services.

The reality is that the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) Medicaid expansion has significant benefits for states and enrollees. That’s particularly true for people with disabilities: in expansion states they’ve seen increased health coverage and employment rates and these states have been able to provide more services critical to many of them, such as specialized services for behavioral health and other chronic conditions.

It’s wrong on several fronts to claim that expansion puts pressure on state budgets and forces states to create waiting lists for seniors and people with disabilities to receive home- and community-based services (HCBS) — that is, care provided in the community to people who would otherwise have to go into a nursing home or other institution.

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