Kaiser report underscores value of Medicaid coverage

States interested in expanding Medicaid eligibility in the wake of a failed Republican bid to kill the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have research to support their contention that the federal health insurance program for low-income Americans works.

The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) last week issued a Data Note examining existing research on access and health outcomes in Medicaid, which “provides health coverage for 74 million low-income Americans, including many of the poorest and sickest people in our society.”

“Multiple studies, though not all, have documented improvements in beneficiaries’ self-reported health, reduced stress and anxiety, and improved quality of life following Medicaid expansions,” Kaiser wrote.

Under the ACA, 11 million Americans were added to Medicaid following eligibility expansion in their states. Currently 19 states still haven’t expanded Medicaid eligibility, though several are now reconsidering, including Kansas and North Carolina.

“Access to screening and preventive care in Medicaid translates into well-child care and earlier detection of health and developmental problems in children, earlier diagnosis of cancer, diabetes, and other chronic conditions in adults, and earlier detection of mental illness in people of all ages,” according to KFF. “Access to physician care, prescription drugs, emergency care, and other services improves the likelihood that Medicaid enrollees will get treatment for both their acute and chronic conditions.”

The KFF report concluded that Medicaid coverage is a key component of the healthcare safety net in the U.S.

“Medicaid covers 1 in 5 Americans today. Data and research provide evidence that Medicaid provides effective access to care for those it covers, including many of the poorest and sickest people in our nation,” KFF wrote. “Because of the program, millions of otherwise uninsured low-income individuals and families – many of them with chronic conditions and disabilities – are able to see a doctor and gain entry into the health care system.” 

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