Health Insurance is Good

As summarized in the New York Times last week, two recent studies show that Medicaid works.

A study conducted in Oregon by researchers from MIT and Harvard showed that, compared to low-income people without health insurance, people enrolled in Medicaid are more likely to receive health care, report better physical and mental health, have lower out-of-pocket health care expenditures, carry less medical debt, and have fewer medical bills sent to collection agencies.

A more recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine found a decline in death rates in states where Medicaid was expanded in recent years, including Maine. It also found more low-income people reporting their health to be “good” or “excellent” in states with Medicaid expansions.

It may seem obvious that low-income people with health insurance are better off than low-income people without health insurance, but these studies provide evidence in support of it.

The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that under the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, Maine would save between $65 and $118 million over six years while at the same time providing health insurance through Medicaid for between 28,000 and 42,000 Mainers who are currently uninsured. Maine Equal Justice Partners estimates that the number of uninsured Mainers who will get covered by the Medicaid expansion under the ACA will be even greater- more than 43,000 people. Under the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, Maine would spend less public money on health care while tens of thousands of Mainers would improve their health and their family finances. In addition, the Medicaid expansion would help to virtually eliminate unpaid care at hospitals, which is at an all-time high nationwide.

Governor LePage has not yet decided whether or not that’s a good deal.