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Definition - What does Medicaid mean?

Medicaid provides healthcare coverage to approximately sixty million Americans. Medicaid is generally provided to seniors, the disabled, pregnant women, and children.

Medicaid coverage was expanded under the Affordable Care Act of 2010, signed by President Obama on March 23, 2010. To qualify for Medicaid applicants must meet certain financial requirements as well as federal and state requirements regarding residency, immigration status, and documentation of U.S. citizenship.

Medicaid is administered by the state, which can develop their own programs to determine the amount, duration, type, and number of services provided, but the standards must meet the federal guidelines. For instance, although a state may decide what optional benefits to provide, they must provide certain federally mandated mandatory benefits.

Mandatory benefits under Medicaid

Mandatory benefits which must be provided under Medicaid include inpatient hospital services, outpatient hospital services, nursing facility services, home healthcare services, family planning services, laboratory and X-ray services, rural healthcare services, physician services, nurse midwife services, certified pediatric and family nurse practitioner services, freestanding birth center services, and transportation to medical care.

Criticism of Medicaid

Critics of Medicaid argue the program costs too much and does not allow patients to get timely access to care, especially when it comes to specialty medical services. For instance, one Federal report concluded, "Standards for access to care under Medicaid vary widely and are rarely enforced, with patients often waiting for months or traveling long distances to see doctor; report comes as enrollment in program is surging due to Affordable Care Act." Critics argue it is time to overhaul the program, giving states control over their portion of federal Medicaid dollars.

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