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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Medicaid Provides Comparable Access to Health Care at Much Lower Costs than Job-Based Coverage

Amy Traver

Staff Writer

Last week, the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured released a study suggesting that people with Medicaid enjoy similar access to health care at lower cost than they would experience if they had job-based coverage.

Here’s a detailed breakdown of the study’s findings:

If Medicaid beneficiaries had job-based coverage instead, their access to care would not be significantly different. 83.9 percent of Medicaid beneficiaries reported having a usual source of care other than the emergency department. If these beneficiaries had job-based coverage instead, the percentage is projected to be 84.6 percent. Similarly, they would be no more or less likely to have unmet medical care or prescription drug needs.

Average health care costs for low-income adults would be significantly higher if they had job-based coverage instead of Medicaid coverage. Not only does Medicaid offer comparable access to services, but it also provides that access at significantly lower costs than job-based coverage. In short, Medicaid is a good deal.

Additionally, if Medicaid beneficiaries were uninsured, they would be significantly less likely to have a usual source of care and more likely to have unmet health care needs. While 83.9 percent of Medicaid beneficiaries reported having a usual source of care, projections show that this percentage would drop to 60.4 percent if these beneficiaries were uninsured. The share of people reporting unmet needs for medical care and prescription drugs would be more than four times higher if these Medicaid beneficiaries did not have insurance.

Furthermore, if Medicaid beneficiaries were uninsured, the study suggests that their out-of-pocket spending costs would rise, on average, from $257 to $993. That’s an increase of nearly 400 percent in out-of-pocket spending! And those high out-of-pocket costs still would not cover the total cost of care. The bulk of health care costs would likely be uncompensated and therefore passed on to privately insured individuals in the form of a hidden health tax.

All in all, these results indicate that Medicaid coverage not only provides access to care that is comparable to what job-based coverage provides, but it is also a cost-effective program that protects low-income adults from undue financial burden.