Commentary

National expert: Ten easy-to-understand reasons why Medicaid works

Greater Drop in Uninsured Rate Among Adults in Medicaid Expansion StatesEdwin Park of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has a fabulous post on the group’s Off the Charts blog today about the amazing successes of Medicaid. The post — “Medicaid Works: 10 Key Facts” — lays out “ten key facts about how Medicaid helps millions of Americans live healthier, more secure lives” and thereby debunks decades of conservative mythology about this vital public public structure. The post also helps make clear once more why the decisions of states like North Carolina not to expand the program under the terms off the Affordable Care Act have been such a disaster. Here are the first five:

“1. Medicaid provided quality health coverage for 97 million low-income Americans over the course of 2015.  In any given month, Medicaid served 33 million children, 27 million adults (mostly in low-income working families), 6 million seniors, and 10 million persons with disabilities, according to Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates.

2. Medicaid has cut dramatically the number of Americans without health insurance.  Since the implementation of health reform’s major coverage expansions in 2014, Medicaid and the new health marketplaces have helped cut the number of uninsured Americans from 45 million to 29 million, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates.  States that expanded Medicaid have had significantly greater reductions in the share of residents who were uninsured than non-expansion states (see chart).  By 2020, an estimated 13 million more adults will have enrolled in Medicaid and gained access to affordable health coverage due to health reform.

3. Medicaid participation is high.  Some 65.6 percent of low-income adults with children who are eligible for Medicaid are enrolled, according to the Urban Institute, a relatively strong participation rate compared to some other programs.  And evidence so far among states adopting health reform’s Medicaid expansion shows substantial increases in overall Medicaid enrollment, which indicates robust participation among expansion-eligible individuals.  In addition, 88.3 percent of eligible children participate in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), according to the Urban Institute.

4. Medicaid has improved access to care for millions, including those with chronic conditions.  A landmark study of Oregon’s Medicaid program found that beneficiaries were 40 percent less likely to have suffered a decline in their health in the last six months than similar people without health insurance coverage.  They were also likelier to use preventive care (such as cholesterol screenings), to have a regular clinic where they could receive primary care, and to receive a diagnosis of and treatment for depression and diabetes.

5. Medicaid provides significant financial support to low-income beneficiaries.  Medicaid lifted 2.6 million people out of poverty in 2010, equating to a 0.7 percentage-point drop in the poverty rate.  The program cut poverty most among adults with disabilities, children, seniors, African Americans, and Hispanics.  Research from Oregon’s Medicaid program also shows that beneficiaries were 40 percent less likely to go into medical debt or leave other bills unpaid in order to cover medical expenses, and that Medicaid coverage nearly eliminated catastrophic out-of-pocket medical costs.”

Click here to read the other five.

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