Medicaid's experience one decade after the passage of the Affordable Care Act represents extreme divergence across the American states in health care access and utilization, policy designs that either expand or restrict eligibility, and delivery model reforms. The past decade has also witnessed a growing ideological divide about the very purpose and intent of the Medicaid program and its place within the US health care system. While liberal-leaning states have actively embraced the program and used it to expand health coverage to working adults and families as an effort to improve health and prevent poverty and the insecurity and instability that comes with high medical costs (evictions, bankruptcy), conservative states have actively rejected this expanded idea of Medicaid and argued instead that the program should revert back to its “original” purpose and be used only for the “truly” needy. This article highlights several paradoxes within Medicaid that have led to this growing bifurcation, and it concludes by shedding light on important targets for future reform.

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