Health Care
3:53 pm
Wed July 25, 2012

Who gets Medicaid and who doesn't?

Reporters love to write in a kind of shorthand. And when it comes to Medicaid, the preferred shortcut is, 'the health care program for the poor.'

Genevieve Kenney: The fact is that's just not the case.

Genevieve Kenney is a health care economist with the Urban Institute.

Kenney: What I find troubling about that is many people assume job done.

The truth, say Kenney, is that Medicaid covers some poor people -- and that's the way it's always been. What makes Medicaid more confusing is that it's kept expanding. Like when it first started in 1965, it covered people with disabilities, low-income seniors, poor kids from broken homes and their caretakers.

Fast forward to the '80s. All poor pregnant women and infants up to age 1 get coverage. Then beginning in the '90s, children up to 18 start getting added. Now, in 2012 -- if states decide to -- they can add the latest group of people to the Medicaid ranks.

Sara Plourde: I walk in and the woman behind the counter very unceremoniously asks me three questions.

Sara Plourde remembers when she applied for Medicaid.

Plourde: Are you pregnant? No. Do you have children? No. Are you disabled? And I say, no. So she just looked at me and said, we have nothing for you.

Like most people, Plourde had always thought of Medicaid as something for the disabled and the poor.

Plourde: I'm probably the poorest person I know. How can there be nothing for me?

Plourde is one of millions of Americans that policy wonks and, yes, reporters like to call... Childless adults.

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