The study will be released as working paper 17190 on the website of the National Bureau of Economic Research ( NBER ) on July 7, 2011.
‘This study shows that Medicaid substantially expands access to and use of care for low-income adults relative to being uninsured,’ said Katherine Baicker, professor of health economics at HSPH and co-principal investigator of the study. Medicaid, which is jointly funded by the federal and state governments, covers the health care costs of eligible low-income individuals and families. The 2010 Affordable Care Act expands Medicaid to cover additional low income adults in all states in 2014.
In 2008, Oregon held a lottery to accept additional low-income, uninsured residents into its Medicaid program; about 90,000 applied for the 10,000 available openings. The researchers collected data on the lottery participants from many sources - including hospital records and mail surveys - and compared outcomes between those randomly selected by the lottery and those not selected in order to determine the impact of Medicaid.
Although many previous studies compare health or health care use between the insured and uninsured, inferring the impact of health insurance from such comparisons is difficult because differences between the insured and uninsured, such as in income, employment, or initial 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 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%.
The current study is part of a broader research program that will follow the lottery participants for an additional year and will also directly measure health outcomes, including cholesterol, diabetic blood sugar control, blood pressure, and obesity.
Additional authors include: Sarah Taubman, NBER; Bill Wright, Providence Health & Services; Mira Bernstein, NBER; Jonathan Gruber, MIT and NBER, Joseph P. Newhouse, HSPH, Harvard Medical School, Harvard Kennedy School, and NBER; Heidi Allen, Providence Health & Services; and the Oregon Health Study Group.
Support for the study was provided by the National Institute on Aging, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (Department of Health and Human Services), California HealthCare Foundation, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Sloan Foundation, Smith Richardson Foundation, and U.S. Social Security Administration. The study was conducted with the cooperation of the State of Oregon.