Does Medicaid Matter? New Study Shows How Much

July 7, 2011 at 12:20 pm

As we noted recently, one of the charges that policymakers seeking radical changes in Medicaid have leveled against the program is that Medicaid coverage is worse than no coverage.  A path-breaking study released today should put that bizarre claim to rest once and for all.

Conducted by an all-star group of health economists — including a member of President George W. Bush’s economic team — the study found that “enrollment in Medicaid substantially increases health care use, reduces financial strain, and improves self-reported health and well-being.”

The study compared people with Medicaid coverage to uninsured low-income people and found that the people with Medicaid were, among other things:

  • More likely to receive doctor-recommended preventive care (for example, women were 60 percent more likely to have a mammogram);
  • 70 percent more likely to have a regular office or clinic where they could receive primary care;
  • 40 percent less likely to have to borrow money or leave other bills unpaid in order to cover medical expenses; and
  • 40 percent less likely to experience a decline in their health over the last six months.

What makes the study so important is its design.  Researchers looked at what happened when Oregon used a lottery to decide which low-income uninsured adults on a waiting list for Medicaid could apply for coverage.  The lottery allowed the researchers to compare two groups of people who differed in only one major way:  one group got Medicaid coverage and the other did not.  While this sort of random assignment is the gold standard for scientific research, it is extremely unusual in social policy research, since it is unethical to deny people something like health care just for the sake of an experiment.

“What we found in a nutshell is that having Medicaid makes a big difference in people’s lives,” said one of the researchers.  Policymakers should keep that in mind as they consider changes to the program.

Print Friendly

More About Judy Solomon

Judy Solomon

Solomon is Vice President for Health Policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, where she focuses on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program and issues related to the implementation of health reform, particularly policies to make coverage available and affordable for low-income people.

Full bio | Blog Archive | Research archive at

1 Comments Add Yours ↓

Comments are listed in reverse chronological order.

  1. clarence swinney #

    visit White Oak Center three blocks from my home.
    Beautiful. Friendly smiling staffers.
    Majority are bed ridden Medicaid Patients.
    Working children could not care for them.
    I appreciate it so very much.

    Tax Me I will support it. It is the Christ Like thing to do.
    clarence swinney burlington nc olduglymeanhonest
    madmadmad at Inequality in America


  1. (Summer Re-Run) Medicaid Matters: Study finds coverage boosts health outcomes and financial security | OK Policy Blog 17 07 12

Your Comment

Comment Policy:

Thank you for joining the conversation about important policy issues. Comments are limited to 1,500 characters and are subject to approval and moderation. We reserve the right to remove comments that:

  • are injurious, defamatory, profane, off-topic or inappropriate;
  • contain personal attacks or racist, sexist, homophobic, or other slurs;
  • solicit and/or advertise for personal blogs and websites or to sell products or services;
  • may infringe the copyright or intellectual property rights of others or other applicable laws or regulations; or
  • are otherwise inconsistent with the goals of this blog.

Posted comments do not necessarily represent the views of the CBPP and do not constitute official endorsement by CBPP. Please note that comments will be approved during the Center's business hours. If you have questions, please contact

× 9 = twenty seven

 characters available