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Medicaid expansions improve health care coverage and outcomes for the poor

States that have enacted the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) Medicaid expansions are seeing better outcomes in many aspects of health care for their low-income residents. The study findings are published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

In 2014, 26 states and the District of Columbia chose to expand Medicaid eligibility to low-income adults as a way to increase access to health care and improve health. Whether or not the expansion improved patient outcomes is of interest to policymakers who continue to debate enacting this policy.

Using data from the National Health Interview Survey for 2010 to 2014, researchers evaluated whether the state Medicaid expansions were associated with changes in insurance coverage, access and utilization of health care, and self-reported health. They compared changes in outcomes for residents of expansion and nonexpansion states before and after the 2014 expansions.

The data showed that states implementing the Medicaid expansions saw improvements in several outcomes, including insurance coverage and health care utilization. In addition, these states saw an increase in the rates of diagnosis of diabetes and high cholesterol among low-income residents. There was no improvement in self-reported health status among enrollees. According to the authors, these finding show that the Medicaid expansions are helping to achieve the broader goals of the ACA.