Five Percent of Enrollees Account for Half of Medicaid's Cost

A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) shows that a small share of Medicaid recipients represented nearly half of the program's cost.

Earlier this month, GAO found that five percent of Medicaid-only enrollees (those who were not also eligible for Medicare) accounted for 48 percent of expenses for such recipients. The most expensive one percent accounted for 25 percent of total expenditures.

Medicaid is designed to provide medical assistance to poor Americans and is jointly administered by the federal government and states. One of the most hotly-debated provisions of the Affordable Care Act is one that would allow citizens who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level to be eligible for Medicaid benefits. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported that as of April 29th, 30 states (including Washington, D.C.) had opted into that expansion. Another 17 states had definitively declined while 4 were still considering it.

The GAO's report did not include a discussion of why the program's costs may be distributed in such a way. Medicaid spending totaled over $438 billion in 2013 and varied widely across different states.