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Research & Policy
Policy Matters Ohio

The benefits of Medicaid expansion

July 07, 2015

The benefits of Medicaid expansion

July 07, 2015

We agree with Gov. John Kasich that expanding Medicaid health insurance to cover working-poor adults ultimately saves money (not to mention it improves health).

Evidence of the benefits continue to accumulate. A new study published today in Health Affairs – a leading medical journal on health-care policy – shows a Medicaid-like plan in Cleveland improved care and health outcomes. And the cost was significantly below the amount allowed by the federal government.

The study involved 28,295 poor patients enrolled in a Medicaid expansion project before Medicaid expansion actually started in Ohio in 2014. The patients had been uninsured and were enrolled in the MetroHealth Care Plus program starting in 2013.

MetroHealth and two other Cuyahoga County health systems cared for the patients in collaboration with the Better Health Partnership, a Cleveland-area health-care quality organization. Researchers looked at a smaller group of 3,437  patients who had high blood pressure or diabetes, and compared them to patients who remained uninsured. They found Medicaid insurance led to better control of diabetes and high blood pressure – conditions that can lead to expensive and life-threatening complications. The cost of care among all enrollees was about 29 percent lower than the federal Medicaid spending cap -- a savings of $41 million.

The findings are consistent with a Policy Matters report last September that said early results of Medicaid expansion in Ohio were showing positive effects. Our report included a preliminary analysis of the MetroHealth project that showed expanding Medicaid enrollment improved health, improved care and lowered costs. A half-million Ohioans who lacked health insurance are now covered under Medicaid expansion.

Statewide, hospitals are seeing improved finances because more patients have insurance. Yet the new state budget signed by Kasich June 30 undermines progress on Medicaid expansion by seeking to impose premiums, penalties and other restrictions that pose a barrier to care for the poor.

Ohio’s Medicaid program is working. The Health Affairs study drives home the point. Why mess with success?

-- Harlan Spector

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Harlan is Policy Matters communications director.



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