Quick Read: Medicaid Reduces Financial Hardship, Doesn’t Quickly Improve Physical Health

In what’s called the Oregon Experiment, 10,000 people in the state won Medicaid coverage in a lottery. Then researchers compared and contrasted the winners with the losers. As it turns out, the winners didn’t get any healthier — at least not physically. But there were other benefits. The people who won Medicaid were a whopping 30 percent less likely to be depressed. The researchers also correctly point out that health insurance is a financial product, intended to prevent financial calamity due to extraordinary medical bills. In the study, “Medicaid coverage almost completely eliminated catastrophic out-of-pocket medical expenditures.” That’s a big deal.

Let’s remember that health care does not equal health. Health comes from many places besides health care or health insurance: good schools, safe neighborhoods, and access to good jobs.


As heated fights over the health law’s Medicaid expansion engulf state legislatures, a sweeping new study indicates that the program is unlikely to quickly improve enrollees’ physical health. The research, published Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, did find that low-income people who recently gained Medicaid coverage in Oregon used more health-care services.

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