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Medicaid increases use of health care, decreases financial strain, improves health
Date:7/6/2011

ial health, may affect the health and health care outcomes studied. This study is the first to avoid this problem by taking advantage of the random assignment created by the Oregon lottery.

Based on the first year of this ongoing study, some of the key findings show that Medicaid coverage:

Increases health care use:

  • Increases the likelihood of using outpatient care by 35%, using prescription drugs by 15%, and being admitted to the hospital by 30%, but does not seem to have an effect on use of emergency departments. This translates into about a 25% increase in annual health care spending.
  • Increases the use of recommended preventive care such as mammograms by 60% and cholesterol monitoring by 20%.
  • Increases access to care: Increases the probability individuals report having a regular office or clinic for their primary care by 70% and the likelihood they report having a particular doctor that they usually see by 55%.
  • Reduces financial strain: Decreases the probability of having to borrow money or skip paying other bills to pay for health care by 40%, and decreases the probability of having an unpaid medical bill sent to a collection agency by 25%. Declines in unpaid medical bills also benefit health care providers, since the vast majority of such debts are never paid.
  • Improves reported health: Increases the probability that people report themselves in good to excellent health (compared with fair or poor health) by 25% and increases the probability of not being depressed by 10%.

"Some people wonder whether Medicaid coverage has any effect. The study findings make clear that it does. People reported that their physical and mental health were substantially better after a year of insurance coverage, and they were much less likely to have to borrow money or go into debt to pay for their care," said Amy Finkelstein, professor of economics at MIT and co-principal
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Contact: Marge Dwyer
mhdwyer@hsph.harvard.edu
617-432-8416
Harvard School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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