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New Oregon Health Study’s Findings Reaffirm That Medicaid Is Good Health Coverage

By Amy Traver,


New findings from the Oregon Health Study reaffirm that Medicaid is good health coverage: The study showed that Medicaid beneficiaries were more likely than the uninsured to receive needed health care services (including preventive care), they experienced improved mental health as a result of coverage, and they were more financially secure. These findings, published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine, are part of an ongoing study of Oregon’s state Medicaid program.

In 2008, Oregon, facing budgetary constraints, created a lottery to give uninsured, low-income adults the chance to apply for Medicaid. Nearly 90,000 people signed up, and approximately 30,000 were selected for the lottery. This lottery presented an opportunity to study the effects of Medicaid coverage in a randomized, controlled study. Here is a summary of what the findings show:

Medicaid coverage improves access to needed health care services. Medicaid beneficiaries were more likely to report having obtained health care services. They were also more likely to report having access to a regular source of care.

Medicaid coverage encourages use of preventive services. Medicaid beneficiaries in the study were more likely than the uninsured to get preventive care, such as cholesterol screenings and mammograms. Obtaining these preventive services will result in better health outcomes for these individuals and lower costs to the health care system in the long run.

Medicaid coverage improves mental health. In the Oregon study, Medicaid coverage reduced the rate of depression among study participants by 30%. It also resulted in an increase in the mental health component of the quality of life measure.

Medicaid coverage provides financial security and peace of mind. Medicaid coverage was shown to significantly reduce financial strain from high medical costs on a number of measures. Most significantly, Medicaid almost completely eliminated catastrophic out-of-pocket medical expenditures (defined as expenses that exceeded 30% of their household income).

All in all, the preliminary findings from the Oregon Health Study reaffirm what we already know: Medicaid coverage provides American families with better access to care, economic security, and peace of mind. Medicaid matters.