Medicaid Enrollment Surges

More than 6 million declared eligible, but we don't know how many are new enrollees.

WASHINGTON - AUGUST 16: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services building is shown August 16, 2006 in Washington, DC. The HHS Building, also known as the Hubert H. Humphrey Building, is located at the foot of Capitol Hill and is named for Humphrey, who served as a U.S. senator from Minnesota and Vice President of the United States. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images) (National Journal)

More than 6.3 million people have been deemed eligible for Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Plan since October, the Health and Human Services Department said Wednesday.

Exactly what that number means, though, is hard to determine. The figure does not include people who were deemed eligible through the 36 federally run marketplaces, so the real number is probably higher. But 6.3 million does include some people who simply renewed their Medicaid coverage, rather than gaining coverage for the first time under Obamacare.

Either way, Medicaid eligibility is far outpacing the health care law's insurance exchanges, which offer private coverage, often with financial help from a new tax subsidy. The exchanges have enrolled roughly 2.2 million people since October, when enrollment began.

Slightly more than half of December's Medicaid determinations came from states that are participating in the program's expansion under Obamacare, according to HHS. The law expanded Medicaid eligibility to cover people with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty line, but the Supreme Court said in 2012 that states must be able to opt out of the expansion.

Twenty-five states and Washington, D.C. have accepted the Medicaid expansion so far. It is initially funded entirely by the federal government.