Medicaid Is the Most Widely Used Benefit Program in Existence

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.


Aaron Carroll points me to this surprising result from a new Kaiser survey:

Is it really true that 71 percent of Republicans think it’s important to keep ACA’s Medicaid expansion? Yes it is, though with less intensity than Democrats and Independents. Is it because they’re confused and think this is about Medicare? Nope. The question explicitly starts out, “Now thinking specifically about Medicaid, the program for certain low-income adults and children…”

The answer probably lies here:

Even among Republicans, nearly half say Medicaid is personally important to their family. If that’s the case, it’s not really surprising that 71 percent support Medicaid expansion. That includes all the Republicans who think it’s personally important plus another sizeable chunk who have one or more friends who depend on it. (Plus, presumably, some who are unaffected by Medicaid but support it out of ordinary human decency anyway.)

These numbers may seem surprisingly high, but they’re really not. In the Kaiser poll, among all party IDs, 58 percent say that Medicaid is personally important to them and their families. In the US there are, roughly speaking:

  • 68 million Medicaid enrollees
  • 85 million families

If, say, there are 35 million families with one Medicaid enrollee; 10 million with two; and 4 million with three or more; that’s a total of 68 million Medicaid enrollees spread out among 49 million families. And that’s 58 percent of all families.

It’s a big number because Medicaid is the most widely used major benefit program in existence.1 Most people don’t know this.

1I think. It’s more widely used than Social Security (61 million), Medicare (55 million), food stamps (44 million), unemployment insurance (6 million at the height of the recession), the home mortgage deduction (about 60 million), 401(k) plans (about 52 million), IRAs (about 60 million), EITC (26 million), and TANF (about 4 million). Am I missing any major programs?

There is one fly in this ointment: employer health insurance. About 155 million people receive medical coverage through their employers, and they all benefit from the tax advantages of employer health plans. If you count this, then Medicaid is only the second most widely-used benefit program.

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Or at least we hope. It’s fall fundraising time, and we’re trying to raise $250,000 to help fund Mother Jones’ journalism during a shorter than normal three-week push.

If you’re reading this, a fundraising pitch at the bottom of an article, you must find our team’s reporting valuable and we hope you’ll consider supporting it with a donation of any amount right now if you can.

It’s really that simple. But if you’d like to read a bit more, our membership lead, Brian Hiatt, has a post for you highlighting some of our newsroom's impressive, impactful work of late—including two big investigations in just one day and covering voting rights the way it needs to be done—that we hope you'll agree is worth supporting.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Or at least we hope. It’s fall fundraising time, and we’re trying to raise $250,000 to help fund Mother Jones’ journalism during a shorter than normal three-week push.

If you’re reading this, a fundraising pitch at the bottom of an article, you must find our team’s reporting valuable and we hope you’ll consider supporting it with a donation of any amount right now if you can.

It’s really that simple. But if you’d like to read a bit more, our membership lead, Brian Hiatt, has a post for you highlighting some of our newsroom's impressive, impactful work of late—including two big investigations in just one day and covering voting rights the way it needs to be done—that we hope you’ll agree is worth supporting.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate