Study: Medicaid Expansion Encourages More Poor Adults to Get Health Care

From the article at Kaiser Health News:

In states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, low-income adults were more likely to see a doctor, stay overnight in a hospital and receive their first diagnoses of diabetes and high cholesterol, according to a study published Monday.

Yet researchers found no improvement in adults’ own assessments of their health, a conclusion echoed by similar studies, the authors wrote in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Two factors might explain the lack of perceived improvement. People did not sign up for Medicaid as soon as it expanded in January 2014 so there was little time to better their health. Also, survey participants’ increased contact with health providers and fresh knowledge about their health might have negatively affected their opinions, the authors said.

Researchers at University of Michigan and the University of California-Los Angeles who did the study said it provides the first evidence of low-income adults’ increased use of health services in states that expanded Medicaid. Federal surveys of adults living in poverty conducted in the second half of 2014 were the foundation for the study. Twenty-six states and District of Columbia expanded Medicaid in 2014 and five more have since then.

Medicaid enrollment has soared past 70 million people since states began expanding the program in 2014 using federal dollars from the law. Medicaid rolls have grown by more than 14 million people in that time.

…Among the study’s findings:

  • The share of respondents who said they saw or talked to a doctor increased from 58 percent before expansion to nearly 68 percent after expansion. There was virtually no change in states that did not expand.
  • Those who said they were diagnosed with diabetes rose from 8.3 percent before expansion to nearly 13 percent after expansion. In non–expansion states, the diabetes diagnosis dropped slightly.
  • Those who said they had no usual source of care due to costs fell from 13.3 percent pre-expansion to 6.6 percent after expansion. This number dropped only marginally in non-expansion states.

Read the full article.