From Medicine Today, the results of a new study published online in the New England Journal of Medicine, finds that state expansions of the Medicaid health program reduced adult death rates by more than 6 percent, as well as showing an increased rate of self reported overall good health. The comparison was made between states that did, and did not expand their Medicaid eligibility. The study will appear in print in September, 2012.
The researchers are Arnold Epstein, chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management, Katherine Baicker, professor of health economics and Benjamin Sommers, assistant professor of health policy and economics at Harvard School of Public Health. They analyzed data gathered from 3 states that had expanded their Medicaid programs; Arizona, Maine and New York, with data obtained from 4 states that had not expanded their programs; New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Nevada and New Mexico. The states were paired, using closely matching demographic data, and analyzed from time periods from 5 years prior, to 5 years after the Medicaid expansion took place.
Medicaid currently covers 60 million people; pregnant women, children, parents and individuals with disabilities whose incomes are near or below the poverty line. Over the past 10 years, several states have expanded their Medicaid coverage to include adults without children. The new health care law, The Affordable Care Act, extends this expanded eligibility in 2014. The Supreme Court recently ruled that states could decide individually whether to participate in the expansion or opt out, creating more political controversy in an already heated climate. To date, 6 Republican governors have stated publicly that they will not participate in the Medicaid expansion, the latest being Governor Rick Perry of Texas.
Epstein, the study’s lead author, said, ” Sometimes the political rhetoric is at odds with the evidence, such as claims that Medicaid is a “broken program” or worse than no insurance at all. Our findings suggest precisely the opposite. The study results provide valuable evidence for state policy makers deciding whether or not to expand Medicaid.”
The reduction in death rates were the greatest among individuals living in poorer counties, older adults and among ethnic and racial minorities. An additional benefit derived from the expansion of Medicare was that far fewer individuals deferred medical care because of lack of insurance or prohibitive cost factors. Study author Benjamin Sommers, currently working on a temporary basis as an advisor to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, said, ” The recent Supreme Court decision on The Affordable Care Act ruled that states could decide whether or not to participate in the health care law’s Medicaid expansion. Our study provides evidence suggesting that expanding Medicaid has a major positive effect on people’s health.”
The economic and jobs crises have contributed greatly to the growing number of people receiving Medicaid health coverage. If you or someone you know are experiencing an economic downturn, use the link above for information about Medicaid eligibility and how to apply for benefits.