Medicaid 101: The Basics of America’s Biggest Health Program

February 28, 2003

Although less well known than Medicare, Medicaid covers even more people. In fact, about 47 million people were expected to have been covered by the program for at least part of last year, including more than one in four children across the country. Medicaid, which is financed by both states and the federal government, also pays for nearly half of all long-term care services.

As helpful as it is, Medicaid is also a major budget item for states. With state budget deficits projected to reach $60-85 billion in fiscal 2004, 49 states have planned or implemented Medicaid cuts in fiscal year 2003, and 32 of them have taken action twice. New state and federal proposals are on the table to cover as many people as possible while keeping costs in check, and to restructure the program completely. Clearly, Congressional staff need an understanding of how Medicaid operates today.

To help staff (and others) gain this understanding, the Alliance for Health Reform and the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured sponsored a February 28, 2003 briefing. The briefing offered an opportunity for newer Hill staff—and staff new to the issue—to improve their foundation of knowledge on Medicaid, and for others to refresh their understanding of this key and complex public program.

Panelists were: Diane Rowland, executive director of the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured; Andy Schneider, principal of Medicaid Policy LLC and Jennifer B. Young, deputy assistant secretary for health legislation at HHS. The Alliance’s Ed Howard moderated the discussion.

Event Resources