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ACA’s ‘Woodworking’ Effect Playing Out As 91,000 People Eligible For Medicaid Learn They Can Get Coverage

Supporters and opponents of the federal health law still can’t decide whether to call it the “woodwork” or “welcome mat” effect — the millions of people currently eligible for Medicaid who are not enrolled and who are expected to sign up as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

The Obama administration’s first enrollment report released Wednesday shows the phenomenon is real. It is happening even in Republican-led states that have fought the health law and refused to take advantage of a provision that would expand their Medicaid programs.

In the first month of open enrollment, about 91,000 people in those non-expanding states who would have qualified for Medicaid before but had not signed up, came to the federal online marketplace and were deemed eligible  for the program,  according to a Kaiser Health News analysis of the data.

In Florida, nearly 13,000 people have visited and been determined eligible for Medicaid — more than in any of the states not expanding the program. In Texas, the figure is about 11,600. Texas and Florida have been among the most hostile states to the health law. Nearly 11,000 people in Wisconsin have also been deemed eligible for Medicaid. Wisconsin is planning to reduce Medicaid eligibility next year.

“This is good news,” said Deborah Bachrach, a partner with consulting firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips and a former Medicaid director in New York. “It shows despite the opposition from Texas Gov. Rick Perry and the Florida legislature and other states that people want coverage and they are coming in and applying despite the problems with”

Half the states next year are expanding Medicaid under the law to cover everyone under 138 percent of the federal poverty level, which is about $15,800 for an individual.

Those who are eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program still must enroll through the state Medicaid program. About 9 million people are expected to sign up for Medicaid as a result of the health law in the first year–including many who are eligible today for the program, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

In all, nearly 400,000 people nationally have been deemed eligible for Medicaid after going through either the federal online marketplace or their state exchange, according to the government’s announcement Wednesday. No information was released to indicate how many of the people applying in expansion states were previously eligible.

However, figures released on Wednesday by Washington state — which has its own online exchange — show  nearly 70,000 people enrolled in Medicaid of which 30,000 were previously eligible.

The headline on this post was corrected on Nov. 15 to make clear that not all the people deemed eligible have enrolled.