Medicaid coverage improves awareness of treatment options, chronic disease management, utilization of preventive care services, and access to health care, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH). The study supports the premise that Medicaid expansion under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148) does in fact lead to better health.
The study was based upon data gathered from national surveys conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It looked at the care received by 4,460 poor Americans. Researchers found that Medicaid leads to significant improvements in health. For example, individuals with Medicaid were 69 percent more likely to be aware of having high blood pressure and 62 percent more likely to have control of their high blood pressure than people without coverage. The study’s researchers noted that awareness and treatment of high blood pressure is a critical preventive measure, calling it the “key to preventing strokes and heart attacks.”
The study’s lead researcher believes the findings point out flaws in the Oregon Health Insurance Experiment, a study which is regularly used as evidence that Medicaid doesn’t improve health. While the Oregon study determined that Medicaid is effective at reducing rates of depression, the Oregon experiment found that Medicaid did not improve physical health. The lead researcher of the AJPH study suggested that the Oregon study may not be representative for much of the country because it was conducted in Portland where uninsured patients “have much better access to safety-net care than do uninsured Americans elsewhere.”
A co-author of the study, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said that “we need to get everyone covered in a single-payer system, but until we do, Medicaid is clearly better than no coverage.” He also asked “With mounting proof that Medicaid improves health, why are politicians refusing to cover their constituents?”