I think conservatives have to convene an emergency round table and conduct a thought experiment, immediately, because this Medicaid study is going to be cited a lot:
When poor people are given medical insurance, they not only find regular doctors and see doctors more often but they also feel better, are less depressed and are better able to maintain financial stability, according to a new, large-scale study that provides the first rigorously controlled assessment of the impact of Medicaid.
This second paragraph made me laugh:
While the findings may seem obvious, health economists and policy makers have long questioned whether it would make any difference to provide health insurance to poor people.
Hah! Maybe policy makers could have asked, I don’t know, some poor people? No. That would be too easy. Instead they asked each other:
Some said that of course it would help to insure the uninsured. Others said maybe not. There was already a safety net: emergency rooms, charity care, free clinics and the option to go to a doctor and simply not pay the bill. And in any case, the argument goes, if Medicaid coverage is expanded, people will still have trouble seeing a doctor because so few accept that insurance.
He said/she said. No one knows the answer, and it will forever remain a mystery. But, as it turns out, poor people, when contacted, were happy to help:
Those with Medicaid were 35 percent more likely to go to a clinic or see a doctor, 15 percent more likely to use prescription drugs and 30 percent more likely to be admitted to a hospital. Researchers were unable to detect a change in emergency room use. Women with insurance were 60 percent more likely to have mammograms, and those with insurance were 20 percent more likely to have their cholesterol checked. They were 70 percent more likely to have a particular clinic or office for medical care and 55 percent more likely to have a doctor whom they usually saw.
The insured also felt better: the likelihood that they said their health was good or excellent increased by 25 percent, and they were 40 percent less likely to say that their health had worsened in the past year than those without insurance.
I’m mostly teasing. I’m glad they did the study, and I’m glad the NYTimes printed the story. I’m always pleased and surprised when we bother to study some real live poor people when we’re deciding whether they might benefit from access to basic health care.
How the study came about is actually pretty interesting:
The study became possible because of an unusual situation in Oregon. In 2008, the state wanted to expand its Medicaid program to include more uninsured people but could afford to add only 10,000 to its rolls. Yet nearly 90,000 applied. Oregon decided to select the 10,000 by lottery. Economists were electrified. Here was their chance to compare those who got insurance with those who were randomly assigned to go without it. No one had ever done anything like that before, in part because it would be considered unethical to devise a study that would explicitly deny some people coverage while giving it to others.