Medicaid Expansion Reduced Unpaid Medical Debt, Improved Financial Well-Being for Families

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As readers of Say Ahhh! know, we are always interested in new Medicaid research on access to care and economic security. Two recent studies focus on these topics, examining Medicaid enrollees’ satisfaction with health care and the financial aspects of having Medicaid.

The first study uses new data from the first-ever national Medicaid Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and System (CAHPS) administered by CMS to examine the experiences of adults with Medicaid. After analyzing the data, the authors find that Medicaid enrollees gave their overall health care an average rating of 7.9 on a 0 to 10 scale (with 10 being the best health care possible). Almost half (46%) of enrollees scored their coverage as a 9 or 10. Check out this table for the results of the study by different demographic characteristics. Overall, across all demographic groups, health care rating ranged from 7.6 to 8.3, the percent able to get all needed care in the past 6 months ranged from 79.9% to 89.7%, and the percent with a usual source of care ranged from 74.9% to 89.2%.

When comparing Medicaid expansion to non-expansion states, the authors found that health care rating and the percent of the population that had a usual source of care were similar. The percentage of enrollees that reported being able to get all needed care in the past 6 months was significantly higher in expansion states than non-expansion, but the magnitude of the difference was small, 85.2% vs. 81.5%.

Also on the topic of Medicaid expansion, the second study finds that Medicaid expansions reduced unpaid medical debt and improved financial satisfaction. Using new data from 2012 and 2015, this time from the National Financial Capability Study, the authors find that: (1) the share of low-income adults with medical debt fell almost twice as much in Medicaid expansion states compared to non-expansion states and (2) expansion states experienced greater improvement in low-income adults’ satisfaction with their financial conditions. This study adds to the growing literature on how Medicaid benefits not just health care, but also improves economic security.

Karina Wagnerman
Karina Wagnerman is a Senior Health Policy Analyst at the Center for Children and Families