Examine a safety net program or legal protection that supports health, analyze the role and adequacy of the program in addressing social determinants of health; promoting population health, and reducing health disparities; and describe the gaps in the program/protection.

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examine a safety net program or legal protection that supports health, analyze the role and adequacy of the program in addressing social determinants of health; promoting population health, and reducing health disparities; and describe the gaps in the program/protection. . Choose one of the following: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Social Security Insurance (SSI) Unemployment Insurance (UI) Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Medicaid Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) National School Breakfast and School Lunch Programs Housing assistance (public housing or Section 8) through HUD . You should include: 1. Introduce your paper with a general statement about the paper, then a purpose statement. A purpose statement starts with: The purpose of this paper is to discuss . . . . then the key elements of what you are going to discuss. This should identify and describe the program/legal protection you will be discussing. . 2. Discuss the following: 1) What is the background for this program? How did it come about? 2) What social determinants of health are addressed through this program/protection and how? 3) Who is eligible for this program/protection? . 3. 1) What are the limitations/gaps in the program/protection? How do these limitations/gaps fail individual members or groups within the population? 2) What can we, as nurses, do to encourage the use of these programs/protections and what can we do if a patient is ineligible? Are there alternatives we can recommend or connections we can facilitate? .

Examining Social Safety Nets and Legal Protections in Healthcare: An Analysis of Medicaid


The purpose of this paper is to discuss the Medicaid program, a vital safety net program that supports healthcare access for low-income individuals and families in the United States. Medicaid plays a crucial role in addressing social determinants of health, promoting population health, and reducing health disparities among vulnerable populations. In this essay, we will delve into the background of Medicaid, exploring its origins and development. Additionally, we will analyze how Medicaid addresses various social determinants of health and who is eligible for this program. Moreover, we will discuss the limitations and gaps in Medicaid, considering how these shortcomings impact individuals and groups within the population. Lastly, we will explore the role of nurses in encouraging the use of Medicaid and alternative options for patients who may be ineligible for the program.

Background of Medicaid

Medicaid, established in 1965, is a joint federal and state program designed to provide healthcare coverage to low-income individuals and families in the United States. It was created as a part of the Social Security Act Amendments of 1965, along with Medicare, which primarily serves the elderly population (Rosenbaum, 2019). The primary goal of Medicaid is to ensure that vulnerable populations, including low-income children, pregnant women, individuals with disabilities, and elderly adults with limited resources, have access to essential healthcare services. Initially, Medicaid focused primarily on providing healthcare to recipients of cash assistance programs. However, over time, the program expanded to cover a more extensive range of eligible groups, including those with disabilities, pregnant women, and low-income adults without dependent children (Rosenbaum, 2019).

Social Determinants of Health Addressed by Medicaid

Medicaid plays a significant role in addressing various social determinants of health, which are non-medical factors that influence health outcomes. These determinants include economic stability, education, social and community context, healthcare access, and the physical environment (CDC, 2021). Medicaid addresses these determinants in several ways:

  1. Economic Stability: Medicaid offers financial security to eligible individuals and families by covering essential healthcare services at low or no cost. This helps reduce the financial burden of medical expenses, contributing to economic stability for enrollees.
  2. Education: Access to healthcare services through Medicaid ensures that children are healthy and ready to learn. By covering preventive services and early interventions, Medicaid supports children’s educational outcomes.
  3. Social and Community Context: Medicaid beneficiaries often receive care from safety-net providers, including community health centers and rural health clinics. These facilities play a vital role in addressing social and community health needs, such as mental health services, substance abuse treatment, and nutrition counseling.
  4. Healthcare Access: Medicaid expands access to healthcare by providing coverage to vulnerable populations who might otherwise go without care. This helps address disparities in healthcare access based on income and social status.
  5. Physical Environment: Medicaid indirectly addresses the physical environment by promoting healthy behaviors and preventive care. For instance, Medicaid covers vaccines, prenatal care, and preventive screenings, all of which contribute to better health outcomes and a healthier physical environment for communities.

Eligibility for Medicaid

Medicaid eligibility varies by state, as states have flexibility in determining income and other criteria for enrollment. However, there are core groups that all states must cover, including low-income children, pregnant women, parents and caretaker relatives, individuals with disabilities, and low-income elderly adults (Medicaid.gov, 2021). The Affordable Care Act (ACA), passed in 2010, significantly expanded Medicaid eligibility by allowing states to cover adults with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level (FPL) (Ku & Broaddus, 2021). This expansion aimed to provide coverage to millions of uninsured adults who were previously ineligible for Medicaid.

Despite these efforts, there remain gaps and limitations in Medicaid that can negatively impact both individuals and specific groups within the population.

Limitations and Gaps in Medicaid

  1. Geographic Disparities: One significant limitation of Medicaid is the variation in eligibility and benefits across states. While some states have expanded Medicaid under the ACA, others have not, creating significant geographic disparities in coverage. This means that individuals with similar income levels may have different access to Medicaid benefits based solely on where they live (Ku & Broaddus, 2021).
  2. Coverage Gaps: Even with Medicaid expansion, there are still coverage gaps, particularly for low-income adults without dependent children. Some individuals may fall into the “Medicaid coverage gap” in states that did not expand Medicaid. These individuals have incomes below the poverty level but do not qualify for Medicaid or ACA marketplace subsidies, leaving them without affordable healthcare options (Ku & Broaddus, 2021).
  3. Limited Access to Specialty Care: While Medicaid provides essential primary care services, access to specialty care can be limited for some beneficiaries. Some specialists may not accept Medicaid due to lower reimbursement rates, resulting in delayed or restricted access to specialty care for those in need (Artiga, Hinton, & Rudowitz, 2021).
  4. Administrative Barriers: The enrollment and renewal process for Medicaid can be challenging, leading to administrative barriers that prevent eligible individuals from accessing the program. Complicated paperwork, strict eligibility requirements, and frequent reevaluations can deter people from enrolling or staying enrolled (Artiga, Hinton, & Rudowitz, 2021).
  5. Provider Shortages: In some areas, especially rural and underserved communities, there is a shortage of healthcare providers who accept Medicaid. This shortage can limit access to care and lead to long wait times for appointments (Artiga, Hinton, & Rudowitz, 2021).

The Impact on Vulnerable Populations

These limitations and gaps in Medicaid disproportionately affect vulnerable populations, including low-income individuals and communities of color. Lack of access to healthcare services can result in delayed diagnoses, unmanaged chronic conditions, and poorer health outcomes, exacerbating existing health disparities (Artiga, Hinton, & Rudowitz, 2021). For example, individuals with disabilities may struggle to access necessary specialty care, leading to a diminished quality of life and increased healthcare costs in the long run.

Furthermore, Medicaid’s geographic disparities mean that individuals in non-expansion states may face barriers to healthcare access based solely on their place of residence, contributing to health inequalities across states (Ku & Broaddus, 2021).

Nursing’s Role in Promoting Medicaid Utilization and Addressing Gaps

Nurses play a vital role in promoting the utilization of Medicaid and addressing the program’s limitations and gaps. Here are some actions nurses can take:

  1. Patient Education: Nurses can educate patients about Medicaid eligibility criteria and the application process. They can provide information on the benefits and services covered by Medicaid to help patients make informed decisions about their healthcare options.
  2. Facilitating Enrollment: Nurses can assist eligible individuals in completing Medicaid applications and connecting them with enrollment assistance programs. This can be particularly valuable for patients who may face administrative barriers.
  3. Advocacy: Nurses can advocate for policy changes at the state and federal levels to address Medicaid limitations and expand access to care. They can join professional organizations and participate in advocacy efforts to support Medicaid expansion and improved benefits.
  4. Referrals and Coordination: When patients are ineligible for Medicaid or face coverage gaps, nurses can help them access alternative resources and services. This may include referring patients to community health clinics, nonprofit organizations, or local programs that provide healthcare assistance.
  5. Cultural Competency: Nurses should strive for cultural competence to ensure that they can effectively communicate with and provide care to diverse populations. This is especially important when working with communities disproportionately affected by healthcare disparities.


Medicaid is a critical safety net program that plays a significant role in addressing social determinants of health, promoting population health, and reducing health disparities. However, there are limitations and gaps in the program that impact individuals and groups within the population. Geographic disparities, coverage gaps, limited access to specialty care, administrative barriers, and provider shortages all contribute to challenges in Medicaid access and utilization.

Nurses have a crucial role to play in addressing these issues. By educating patients, facilitating enrollment, advocating for policy changes, providing referrals, and promoting cultural competence, nurses can contribute to improving access to healthcare services for vulnerable populations. It is essential that efforts continue to strengthen Medicaid and other safety net programs to ensure that they effectively serve those in need and contribute to a healthier, more equitable society.


Artiga, S., Hinton, E., & Rudowitz, R. (2021). Current Flexibilities in Medicaid: What Are the Key Issues and Considerations for Policymakers? Kaiser Family Foundation.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2021). Social Determinants of Health.

Ku, L., & Broaddus, M. (2021). The Effects of Medicaid Expansion under the ACA: Updated Findings from a Literature Review. The Commonwealth Fund.

Medicaid.gov. (2021). Eligibility.

Rosenbaum, S. (2019). The Past, Present, and Future of Medicaid. JAMA, 321(18), 1753–1754.

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