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Friday
Jul082011

Study Proves Medicaid Helps Recipients

Creatas Images/Thinkstock(CAMBRIDGE, Mass.) -- A study released Thursday proves that being insured through Medicaid benefits low-income people physically, financially, and psychologically -- and that deep cuts proposed at both the state and federal levels could limit beneficial services.

The study, released by the National Bureau of Economic Research, is the first to use a randomly selected group of Medicaid participants, making it the most accurate data available on the program's effects, said MIT economist Amy Finkelstein, the lead author of the report.

The random sample study was made possible by a 2008 Medicaid lottery implemented in Oregon as a way to fairly choose the 10,000 Oregonians the state could afford to cover by the program.  Budget restraints prevented Oregon from accepting all 90,000 applicants.

"The situation in Oregon provided us an opportunity to bring the gold standard of research [random sampling] to important social science and public policy questions," Finkelstein said.

The study found that people enrolled in Medicaid were 25 percent more likely to report their health was very good or excellent, 10 percent less likely to be depressed, and 25 percent less likely to have unpaid medical bills sent to a collection agency than their uninsured counterparts.

"The results are even more positive than we anticipated," wrote Sherry Glied, the Health and Human Services assistant secretary for planning and evaluation, in a White House blog post Thursday.

Insured people also used more preventative medical services.

The probability that Medicaid recipients had their blood cholesterol checked increased 20 percent and insured women were 60 percent more likely to have a mammogram.

Insured people were 30 percent more likely to be admitted to the hospital, 15 percent more likely to use prescription drugs, and 21 percent more likely to go to a clinic or see a doctor.

"The single core finding of the study is that having Medicaid matters," Finkelstein said.

But with steep cuts proposed to the program at both the state and federal levels, those benefits may be short-lived.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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