Expanded and increased funding of Medicaid is needed more than ever so the people most susceptible to COVID-19 can afford health care, proponents of the program said.   

The 14 states that didn’t extend Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act are under new pressure to do so to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. A law requiring free coronavirus testing for everyone boosted the share of Medicaid costs paid by the federal government.

This week, the National Governors Association asked for the federal match to be nearly doubled, but only for states that expanded Medicaid. 

People get tested for the coronavirus at a drive-thru station in Wilmington, Del., on March 13.

“If we can’t prioritize Medicaid expansion given the health implications of a pandemic of historic proportions and an economic catastrophe of historic proportions, we’re incapable of resolving this intractable problem,” said health economist David Becker of the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

The record numbers of newly unemployed people and the virus’s disproportionate effect on low-income people of color has increased the focus and the demands on Medicaid. The federal government contributes at least half and often much more of a state’s share of the cost of the program, which provides typically free or very low-cost health coverage to eligible people who are poor, elderly, pregnant or disabled.