Medicaid enjoying higher public profile after ACA fight, observers say

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The recent legislative battle over repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act helped increase understanding of Medicaid's importance and support for the program, according to some observers.

The attention received by Medicaid during the healthcare reform fight may also make it harder for lawmakers to make cuts to the program, healthcare experts told The Washington Post for an article published Monday.

“This was an important moment to show that people do understand and appreciate what Medicaid does,” Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors, told the newspaper. “The more people understand what Medicaid is and what it does for them, the less interested they are in seeing it undermined.”

Salo's sentiments were echoed former Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Gail Wilensky, Ph.D., who said the backlash against possible cuts to Medicaid might pave the way for any future changes to the program. The outcry from providers, including those in long-term care, may give them more of a seat at the table in policy-making.

“You are going to have to be gentle and thoughtful, working in a bipartisan way to see what ideas will reach across the aisle,” Wilensky said

Changes to Medicaid will now focus on states' decisions, with some pushing for work requirements and drug testing. Other states that have not expanded the program may launch campaigns to start, the Post reported.

But for the time being, the Medicaid program has emerged from the ACA fight a “winner,” said Katherine Hempstead, a health insurance researcher with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“I imagine these challenges to Medicaid will rise again,” Hempstead told the Post. “But I think its supporters will also rise again.”