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Medicaid Coverage 'Substantially' Improves Access to Care: Study
Date:7/7/2011

THURSDAY, July 7 (HealthDay News) -- Expanding Medicaid coverage among low-income adults increases health care use, improves health and well-being and reduces the financial strain for people with the publicly funded health coverage, according to new research.

"This study shows that Medicaid substantially expands access to and use of care for low-income adults relative to being uninsured," co-principal investigator Katherine Baicker, professor of health economics at Harvard School of Public Health, said in a Harvard news release.

She and her colleagues looked at 10,000 low-income, uninsured adults in Oregon who were randomly selected in a 2008 state lottery to accept additional people into its Medicaid program. The health outcomes of these people were compared to the 80,000 applicants who weren't selected in the lottery.

The first year of the ongoing study showed that Medicaid coverage increases the likelihood of outpatient care by 35 percent, the use of prescription drugs by 15 percent, and of hospital admission by 30 percent. This leads to about a 25 percent increase in annual health care spending.

Medicaid coverage also increases the use of recommended preventive care such as mammograms by 60 percent and cholesterol monitoring by 20 percent. It also increases access to care. For example, people with Medicaid were 70 percent more likely than those without insurance to have a regular doctor's office or clinic for primary care, and were 55 percent more likely to have a particular doctor that they usually see.

Compared to uninsured people, those with Medicaid coverage were 40 percent less likely to have to borrow money or skip paying other bills to pay for health care, and 25 percent less likely to have an unpaid medical bill sent to a collection agency.

The researchers also found that the adults with Medicaid coverage were 25 percent more likely to report they were in good to excellent health, and 10 p
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