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6.3 million eligible for Medicaid since Obamacare launch: U.S. agency

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Medicaid expansionMore than 6.3 million Americans were deemed eligible for government healthcare plans for the poor since the October 1 launch of President Barack Obama's healthcare law through December, federal officials reported on Wednesday.

The swelling rolls for Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) reflect both an expansion of Medicaid under Obama's Affordable Care Act (ACA) and what healthcare policy analysts call an "out-of-the-woodwork effect," in which people who heard about Obamacare sought to obtain health insurance and discovered that they had qualified for Medicaid even before the law expanded eligibility.

"We have people who for the first time will have some health security that they never had before," Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, said of the Medicaid numbers at the winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C.

It was not clear how much credit goes to the healthcare law, however.

"What many people don't read far enough to learn is that this number also can include people in some states who are eligible under pre-expansion -- the woodwork effect -- and whose Medicaid enrollment was simply renewed," said Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors.

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