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Many States Continue To Expand Medicaid Benefits

A recent study has shown that several states have expanded or enhanced their Medicaid benefits this year, with several planning to do so next year.

The increased benefits were primarily for mental health treatment and substance abuse. Some of the other treatments that saw expanded benefits include telemedicine, dental care, oral contraceptives, and cancer screenings.

The study, conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the National Association of Medicaid Directors, found that the number of states increasing their benefits is the highest in at least a decade. The study, which examined 50 states, found that 26 states either expanded or enhanced benefits in fiscal year 2016, with 17 more preparing to do so next year. Only six states decreased their Medicaid benefits.

One reason for this trend is the strong economy: Since the 2009 end of the economic recession, several states augmenting benefits, as states have a tendency to expand benefits in a strong economy. Two other major factors are the current opioid abuse epidemic and the propensity to extend benefits to elderly enrollees in order to allow them to live independently instead of moving to nursing homes.

Recent enrollment in Medicaid peaked in 2015 as a result of expanded coverage under the ACA. Nationally, enrollment has slowed to 2.7 percent in fiscal 2017, down from 3.9 percent in 2016. Medicaid spending increased by 3.9 percent in 2016 compared to 3.5 percent in 2016.

Medicaid currently faces several challenges from the GOP and President Trump, such as potentially ending open-ended federal spending on the program and replacing the Affordable Care Act. The Trump administration is also debating whether states can require non-disabled, adult enrollees to work in order to qualify for benefits. The measures have faced strong opposition from Congressional Democrats and patient advocates. While the future of Medicaid remains uncertain, the study suggests that the expansion of benefits is likely to continue.

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