While most news stories about Medicaid focus on states’ decisions on whether to expand eligibility, the collective impact of the program on beneficiaries, health providers and systems, and state economies is rarely discussed. Given the large share of federal funds devoted to Medicaid, it’s reasonable to assume that policymakers on both sides of the aisle will be considering programmatic or financing changes for the program—or both—early in a new presidential administration. To inform that process, it’s helpful to look at the multifaceted role Medicaid plays in our health system.
When it was signed into law in 1965 as an extension of welfare, few would have anticipated Medicaid would evolve into the nation’s largest health insurer, covering nearly 73 million Americans.1 Today, Medicaid is at the center of the American health care safety net, providing benefits to adults and children otherwise unable to afford care—and helping to support and drive innovation in the hospitals and clinics that treat these patients, as well as supporting state economies.
Medicaid provides people with good insurance. While the program can vary somewhat by state, a growing body of evidence finds that Medicaid provides a comprehensive set of benefits as well as strong financial protections. A 2015 analysis of the Commonwealth Fund Biennial Health Insurance Survey suggests that people with Medicaid coverage have better access to health care services, including proven preventive care, and fewer medically related financial burdens than those who lack insurance. The same study found that Medicaid enrollees have nearly equivalent access to care as those with private coverage in many areas.
Other study findings included:
- Most adults with Marketplace or Medicaid coverage continue to be satisfied with it
- 24 state Medicaid programs have active medical home initiatives
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