Study Verifies That Poor Do Benefit From Medicaid Coverage

Medicaid provides poor health care coverage compared to Medicare, or to private insurance plans which do provide coverage, but is still far better than no coverage at all. This sounds incredibly obvious, but  a significant number of conservatives deny reality on this (as with most other) matters. Therefore it is worthwhile to link to a report that shows that yes, poor people are better off when they have health care coverage from Medicaid. The New York Times reports:

When poor people are given medical insurance, they not only find regular doctors and see doctors more often but they also feel better, are less depressed and are better able to maintain financial stability, according to a new, large-scale study that provides the first rigorously controlled assessment of the impact of Medicaid.

Among the findings:

In its first year of data collection, the study found a long list of differences between the insured and uninsured, adding up to an extra 25 percent in medical expenditures for the insured.

Those with Medicaid were 35 percent more likely to go to a clinic or see a doctor, 15 percent more likely to use prescription drugs and 30 percent more likely to be admitted to a hospital. Researchers were unable to detect a change in emergency room use.

Women with insurance were 60 percent more likely to have mammograms, and those with insurance were 20 percent more likely to have their cholesterol checked. They were 70 percent more likely to have a particular clinic or office for medical care and 55 percent more likely to have a doctor whom they usually saw.

The insured also felt better: the likelihood that they said their health was good or excellent increased by 25 percent, and they were 40 percent less likely to say that their health had worsened in the past year than those without insurance.

The study is now in its next phase, an assessment of the health effects of having insurance. The researchers interviewed 12,000 people — 6,000 who received Medicaid and 6,000 who did not — and measured things like blood pressure, cholesterol and weight.

This is not the type of situation where you can normally have a control group for comparison, but the conditions for the study were set up by an unusual situation in Oregon:

The study became possible because of an unusual situation in Oregon. In 2008, the state wanted to expand its Medicaid program to include more uninsured people but could afford to add only 10,000 to its rolls. Yet nearly 90,000 applied. Oregon decided to select the 10,000 by lottery.

Economists were electrified. Here was their chance to compare those who got insurance with those who were randomly assigned to go without it. No one had ever done anything like that before, in part because it would be considered unethical to devise a study that would explicitly deny some people coverage while giving it to others.

This helps verify that the aspects of the Affordable Care Act which expands access to Medicaid will be of benefit. It would be even better if instead these people are  given access to actual health care insurance through the exchanges or through a public option modeled on Medicare.

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