Economic observers expressed dismay and worry over a recent USA Today study which found that 1 in every 6 Americans is receiving government aid. According to the 50-state survey released yesterday by the national newspaper, some 50 million Americans are receiving Medicaid, an increase of 17% since the official beginning of the recession in late 2007.
According to USA Today reporter Richard Wolf, the strain on Medicaid is historic, considering an additional 16 million Americans will be added to its rolls in 2014 when the new health care reform law takes effect.
“Virtually every Medicaid director in the country would say that their current enrollment is the highest on record,” Vernon Smith of Health Management Associates tells USA Today in the article releasing the results. “Private physicians are already indicating that they’re at their limit,” says Dan Hawkins of the National Association of Community Health Centers, also cited in that same article.
According to the study, more than 40 million people are receiving food stamps (up 50% since the Recession began) and an additional 10 million people receive unemployment benefits. 4.4 million are on welfare.
As caseloads increase dramatically, so have the costs: $273 billion for Medicaid and $160 billion for unemployment insurance.
Conservatives seized on the new information as evidence White House economic policies are not working, and are only saddling future generations with massive debt. Reactions from the study, released during an election year, are sure to spark a new debate over the direction of government safety net programs and their effectiveness. “One in six Americans is now on government aid,” blogged commentator Michelle Malkin. “Liberals consider this a sign that their system is working.”
“Boy, that Trillion dollar stimulus worked wonders, didn’t it?” quipped Gateway Pundit blogger Jim Hoft. “At least we won’t have to pay for it… Our children and grandchildren will.”
Still, some experts explain that additional government funding for anti-poverty programs is needed to keep the recession from getting worse. “We should be there to support people when the economy can’t,” LaDonna Pavetti of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities tells USA Today.