Rethinking Healthcare

New study shows the benefit of Medicaid for the poor

New study shows the benefit of Medicaid for the poor

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A new paper released Thursday by the National Bureau of Economic Research showed that enrolling in Medicaid helped recipients improve their long-term health and maintain financial stability.

For the working poor, staying healthy is a major concern. The choice whether or not to brush your teeth or jaywalk across the street aren't choices, but carefully planned decisions to prevent costly expenses.

In a paper released Thursday by the National Bureau of Economic Research, a study showed that enrolling in Medicaid helped recipients improve their long-term health and maintain financial stability.

Researchers report that this is the first large-scale study of the program. According to researcher Amy Finkelstein, a professor in MIT's Department of Economics:

“There has been a lot of genuine uncertainty about whether it makes a difference when you give people Medicaid,” says Amy Finkelstein, a professor in MIT’s Department of Economics and one of the principal investigators of the study. “The short answer from our study is that it does.”

The study showed that by enlisting in Medicaid, participants were 30 percent more likely to have a hospital stay, 35 percent more likely to have an outpatient visit to a doctor, and 15 percent more likely to take prescription drugs, compared to others in the same economic class who were not enrolled in the program.

Finkelstein explained:

“If you just compare low-income insured people and uninsured people … it can look like health insurance actually is bad for your health,” Finkelstein said. “But that’s because people in worse health are more likely to seek out health insurance, not because health insurance makes you sicker.”

According to reporting from Reuters, Finkelstein said:

"People reported that their physical and mental health were substantially better after a year of insurance coverage, and they were much less likely to have to borrow money or go into debt to pay for their care."

Tell us: Do you think Medicaid benefits the poor and uninsured? Have you been on Medicaid? Share your thoughts below.

Image:  Flickr/Robert Kennedy

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Stacy Lipson

Contributing Writer

Contributing Writer Stacy Lipson has written for Natural Health, MSNBC's Body Odd, HealthDay.com, Sprig.com, BNET.com, MarieClaire.com, MyDaily.com and Lemondrop.com. He holds a degree from Temple University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure