Expanding Medicaid to Low-Income Adults Leads to Improved Health, Fewer Deaths

Expanding Medicaid benefits for low-income adults leads to widespread gains in coverage, access to care, and improved health and reduced mortality, according to a study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH).

In the first published study since the Supreme Court’s ruling on the effect of recent state Medicaid expansions on mortality among low-income adults, the findings suggest that expanding coverage to the uninsured may save lives. Medicaid currently covers 60 million people, and the ACA will extend eligibility to millions more beginning in 2014.

HSPH researchers analyzed data from three states: Arizona, Maine, and New York, that had expanded their Medicaid programs to childless adults (aged 20 to 64) between 2000 and 2005. They selected four neighboring states without major Medicaid expansions — New Hampshire (for Maine), Pennsylvania (for New York), and Nevada and New Mexico (for Arizona), as controls. The researchers analyzed data from five years before and after each state’s expansion.

The results showed that Medicaid expansions in three states were associated with a significant reduction in mortality of 6.1 percent compared with neighboring states that did not expand Medicaid, or 2,840 deaths prevented per year for each 500,000 adults gaining Medicaid coverage. Mortality reductions were greatest among older adults, non-whites, and residents of poorer counties. Expansions also were associated with increased Medicaid coverage, decreased uninsurance, decreased rates of deferring care due to costs, and increased rates of “excellent” or “very good” self-reported health.

The groups that benefitted from Medicaid expansion in this study are groups that have traditionally had higher mortality rates and faced greater barriers to care. The study results provide valuable evidence for state policymakers deciding whether or not to expand Medicaid, say the authors.

Source: Harvard School of Public Health, July 25, 2012

Futurescan 2012: Healthcare Trends and Implications 2012-2017

Futurescan 2012: Healthcare Trends and Implications 2012-2017 highlights eight key trends affecting the nation’s healthcare organizations. Each chapter identifies the implications of the trend and helps providers prepare for them. In this era of constant change, every healthcare leader can benefit from this report.

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