Study: ObamaCare's Medicaid expansion increases access to care

A new study finds that ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion led to gains in access to healthcare in two Southern states. 

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The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, finds that patients fared better in Kentucky and Arkansas — two states that accepted the expansion of Medicaid — compared to Texas, which has rejected it. 

The study finds that there was a much steeper drop in the uninsured rate in Kentucky and Arkansas than in Texas. However, Republicans have argued that Medicaid is low quality insurance and that it does not actually end up improving people’s access to healthcare. 

But the study released Monday finds that there have been improvements to access to healthcare in the states expanding Medicaid. 

The study finds that in Arkansas and Kentucky, people were 11.6 percentage points less likely to skip prescription medications and 14 percentage points less likely to have trouble paying medical bills, compared to Texas. 

In addition, in the two expansion states, patients were 16.1 percentage points more likely to have had a checkup in the past year, and 12 percentage points more likely to be getting regular care for a chronic condition. 

Thirty-one states have so far accepted ObamaCare’s expansion of eligibility for Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor. The Obama administration is trying to convince the remaining states to accept the expansion, which broadens eligibility up to 138 percent of the poverty line (about $33,000 for a family of four). 

Some states with Republican governors have put conservative twists on the expansion, while other Republican-led states have flat-out rejected it. 

Arkansas was one Republican state that put on a conservative spin, using federal dollars to help people buy private insurance. 

The study found, though, that it had similar gains as Kentucky, which adopted the expansion of the traditional, government-run program. 

“What this means is that it doesn’t matter so much how states expand coverage,” said Benjamin Sommers, a Harvard professor who was one of the authors of the study. “What matters is whether they expand at all.”

Kentucky, under Gov. Matt Bevin (R), a fierce opponent of ObamaCare, is now trying to make conservative changes such as making enrollees pay premiums.