People who receive Medicaid coverage report better overall health and less financial problems as a result of unpaid medical bills than individuals who don’t have insurance, a new bipartisan study has concluded. The report also undermines the GOP’s claim that people would be better off uninsured than on Medicaid, according to the researchers:
“What we found in a nutshell is that having Medicaid makes a big difference in people’s lives,” said Amy Finkelstein, another MIT economist and one of the study’s principal investigators.
Overall, researchers found that compared to people without insurance, those with Medicaid had better access to and used more health care; they were less likely to experience unpaid medical bills; they were more likely to report being in good health; and they were less likely to report feeling depressed.
In fact, says Finkelstein, among those with Medicaid, “We report almost a one-third increase in the probability that you report yourself as being happy.”
The report, which the National Bureau of Economic Research is publishing, found that the chance that a patient had a primary care doctor or facility was 70 percent higher among Medicaid enrollees. They received preventative care more frequently than the uninsured, with Medicaid-insured women 60 percent more likely to receive mammograms. Men and women were 20 percent more likely to get their cholestorol checked. And those with Medicaid were 25 percent more likely to say they had good health, and 40 percent less likely to say their health had worsened.
Beyond just taking care of their health, Medicaid coverage also helped to give patients financial security when it came to health care costs: Medicaid enrollees were 40 percent less likely to have to borrow money to pay medical bills, and were 25 percent less likely to have unpaid bills referred to collection agencies.
While the study may have only focused on Oregon’s program, these preliminary results already debunk some conservative claims against the program and reinforces how important Medicaid is for those who most need it.