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May 31, 2015

Debunking Medicaid Critics: Facts on Health Care Quality and Access


By Elizabeth Cooper

What was once a promise is now a reality: Since the Affordable Care Act became law, 16 million Americans have gained health insurance. Now, opponents of the ACA are changing tack, criticizing the quality of that health insurance. Lately, conservatives have been attacking Medicaid, rallying around the myth that Medicaid coverage is no better than being uninsured. As we’ll show, a review of the facts demonstrates that Medicaid is an effective health insurance program offering people high-quality care.

Benefits of Medicaid coverage extend beyond positive health impacts
Studies show that people with Medicaid report better health and greater financial stability than their uninsured counterparts:

• Medicaid offers free or low-cost preventive care: The free or low-cost preventive health care available to most adults and all children with Medicaid yields many benefits. Medicaid enrollees use preventive care appointments at levels similar to the privately-insured population. Preventive care appointments, such as blood pressure checks and disease screenings, reduce the likelihood of costly usage of emergency rooms.

• Medicaid is associated with lowered financial burdens: Medicaid enrollees are less likely to incur catastrophic healthcare costs and report paying less out of pocket for health services. Medicaid has also been shown to impact enrollees’ perceived financial strain due to healthcare costs.

• Medicaid is good for children: Medicaid’s benefit is especially apparent when looking at the population that accounts for almost half of all enrollees: children. Studies show that kids with Medicaid not only experience better health outcomes during their enrollment, but that they actually earn more as adults. For each year an adult is Medicaid eligible as a child, they experience a rise in income. Medicaid’s benefits for enrollees are both immediate and long-term.

People with Medicaid are able to get care when they need it

Contrary to claims by opponents of the ACA, research shows that people with Medicaid can see a doctor when they need one. Medicaid enrollees are able to get care more easily than uninsured individuals, and their access to care is on par with those covered by employer-sponsored insurance.

While 11 percent of new Medicaid members reported experiencing difficulty making an initial appointment, only 2.8 percent were ultimately unable to get an appointment. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation report shows that individuals covered by Medicaid see doctors twice as often as uninsured people.

With time, any difficulties in accessing health care decrease. Those who have been covered for by Medicaid for a year experienced the same ease of scheduling appointments as low-income individuals who have health coverage through their employer.

Further, appointment wait times are similar for Medicaid enrollees and privately insured individuals.

While access issues undeniably exist across the health care landscape, the facts show that Medicaid enrollees do not experience drastically different access barriers than any other insured population. People with Medicaid are satisfied with their health care Some critics assert that Medicaid isn’t quality care, but the people who actually receive Medicaid coverage disagree. A Commonwealth Fund survey published last year found that 86 percent of new Medicaid enrollees express optimism about their new health insurance’s ability to connect them to the health care they need. And 67 percent reported feeling they were better off than before they received the health care. Across the country, the vast majority of Medicaid enrollees report being satisfied with their health care. The voices criticizing Medicaid coverage may by loud, but do not reflect the perceptions of the people actually receiving health care through Medicaid. The bottom line is Medicaid works for the people it serves. Increased enrollment in Medicaid means more Americans can afford the health care they need and enjoy the financial stability that comes with having good insurance.

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