Medicaid Expansion Significantly Decreases Financial Hardship and Improves Mental Health

May 20, 2013

By Elizabeth Lower-Basch and Lavanya Mohan

A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine examining the impact of expanded Medicaid coverage has gained national attention. The study collected data on Oregon residents who received insurance through the state's expanded health care program. Although 90,000 low-income people qualified and applied for the program, only 10,000 ultimately received coverage. Unlike previous studies, this allowed researchers to test the impact of Medicaid expansion by comparing health and other outcomes between those who received coverage and those who did not.  

One of the key conclusions drawn by the study is that health care coverage nearly eliminated out-of-pocket medical expenses, especially catastrophic expenditures, for the program's 10,000 participants. As the study's lead researcher stated, Medicaid coverage generated "enormous reductions in financial strain and hardship," preventing participants from having to face mounting medical costs and/or debt, while also reducing other forms of financial strain such as borrowing money or delaying other bill payments.

This is good news for poor families who have a hard time making ends meet. Without health care coverage, they must often choose between paying medical bills or other basic necessities.  Expanded Medicaid coverage can eliminate that stress, allowing low-income families to pay for things like rent, food, and childcare without racking up debt.

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