While this week, the Obama Administration proposed cutting Medicaid to deal with the national debt ceiling, a few weeks ago researchers from Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology released findings to their study about Medicaid and concluded that signing up for the federal health program actually benefits Americans.
Specifically, researchers found that Medicaid can improve your overall health and financial security, which is somewhat surprising given the negative beliefs toward the program—that it's substandard health care and is just as bad as not having any insurance at all.
This study also provides a peek into how President Obama's health care reform may play out in the future for low-income Americans. The Associated Press reported:
Led by economists at Harvard and MIT and released Thursday by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the study found that having Medicaid significantly increased the chances people will perceive their health as being good to excellent, while decreasing the likelihood they’ll have to borrow money or skip paying other bills because of medical expenses.
Medicaid is a federal-state program for low-income and severely disabled people now covering about 60 million Americans. Starting in 2014, it will also pick up about half the more than 30 million uninsured people gaining coverage under the new health care law. Since it pays doctors far less than Medicare and private insurance, some experts have questioned whether Medicaid coverage will translate into medical care that people need.
The study only provides a partial answer, but it’s encouraging.
“The bottom line is that Medicaid really matters in people’s lives,” said MIT economist Amy Finkelstein, lead author of the report. “There is a large concern out there about whether Medicaid actually makes a difference, and now we actually have evidence.”
Their study also found the following:
—People with Medicaid were 70 percent more likely to have a regular medical office or clinic for their basic care.
—People with Medicaid were 55 percent more likely to have a personal doctor.
—Medicaid enrollees were also more likely to get preventive care, such as mammograms and cholesterol screening. This is key to better health.
—People with Medicaid and people without Medicaid both used the emergency room at the same rate, but people with Medicaid were significantly more likely to use inpatient and outpatient services, as well as prescription drugs. Another bonus in bettering one's health.
—When looking at the differences in health factors, such as depression levels and whether their health was better or worse over a given period of time, people with Medicare fared significantly better than those who were uninsured.
But before we jump up for joy, the researchers admit that insuring so many more people under Medicaid and not employing more doctors could mean that people would have to wait longer to see a doctor and may have a harder time finding one that accepts Medicaid in their area.
To learn more about Medicaid and if you qualify for it, click here.
(Photo: Plain Dealer /Landov)