Study: Medicaid Recipients Better Off Than Uninsured

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/7, A14, Kolata, Subscription Publication) 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.” Even though these “findings may seem obvious, health economists and policy makers have long questioned whether it would make any difference to provide health insurance to poor people.” In fact, this “has become part of the debate on Medicaid, at a time when states are cutting back on this insurance program for the poor.” Richard M. Suzman, of the National Institute on Aging, which funded the study, “said it was ‘one of the most important studies that our division has funded since I’ve been at the NIA.'”

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/7, Alonso-Zaldivar) reports, “The study looked at 10,000 Oregonians who won a state-sponsored lottery for Medicaid in 2008, and compared them to those who applied but weren’t picked and remained uninsured.” Researchers “found that people with Medicaid were 70 percent more likely to have a regular medical office or clinic for their basic care, and 55 percent more likely to have a personal doctor. Medicaid enrollees were also more likely to get preventive care, such as mammograms and cholesterol screening.” Notably, they found “no real difference between the two groups in emergency room use,” although “people with Medicaid were significantly more likely to use inpatient and outpatient services, as well as prescription drugs.”

Ezra Klein writes in a Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/7) column that the study’s findings underscore “a point that is frequently obscured in a debate that’s often concerned more with cost curves than with treating heart disease. Part of health-care reform is about making care cheaper. But the more important part is about making Americans healthier.”

The Oregonian Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (7/7, Rojas-Burke) reports that these results “are bound to play a role in the political controversy over federal health reform, which calls for expanding Medicaid coverage to 16 million uninsured Americans in 2014.” Notably, the extent to which “Medicaid coverage improves health has remained an open question, in part because of the difficulty of performing controlled experiments. Researchers consider it unethical, for example, to force subjects to go without health insurance just to test the result.” The decision by Oregon officials “to use a random lottery presented a happenstance opportunity.”

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