From its inception, Medicaid was aimed at providing insurance coverage for low income children, elderly, and disabled. Since this time, children have become a smaller proportion of the US population and Medicaid has expanded to additional eligibility groups. We sought to evaluate relative growth in spending in the Medicaid program between children and adults from 1991-2005. We hypothesize that this shifting demographic will result in fewer resources being allocated to children in the Medicaid program.
We utilized retrospective enrollment and expenditure data for children, adults and the elderly from 1991 to 2005 for both Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program Medicaid expansion programs. Data were obtained from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services using their Medicaid Statistical Information System.
From 1991 to 2005, the number of enrollees increased by 83% to 58.7 million. This includes increases of 33% for children, 100% for adults and 50% for the elderly. Concurrently, total expenditures nationwide rose 150% to $273 billion. Expenditures for children increased from $23.4 to $65.7 billion, adults from $46.2 to $123.6 billion, and elderly from $39.2 to $71.3 billion. From 1999 to 2005, Medicaid spending on long-term care increased by 31% to $84.3 billion. Expenditures on the disabled grew by 61% to $119 billion. In total, the disabled account for 43% and long-term care 31%, of the total Medicaid budget.
Our study did not find an absolute decrease in the overall resources being directed toward children. However, increased spending on adults on a per-capita and absolute basis, particularly disabled adults, is responsible for much of the growth in spending over the past 15 years. Medicaid expenditures have grown faster than inflation and overall national health expenditures. A national strategy is needed to ensure adequate coverage for Medicaid recipients while dealing with the ongoing constraints of state and federal budgets.