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Medicaid mythbuster #1

Guest Column

 


During debates over expanding Medicaid to uninsured, low-income families, expansion opponents argued it doesn’t provide quality healthcare coverage, and low-income residents would be better off uninsured.

Reports of organizations such as The Buckeye Institute (from Ohio, which has expanded its Medicaid program) make such claims. They have been repeated across the nation by anti-Affordable Care Act and anti-Medicaid expansion politicians and groups.

These arguments are nonsensical. Myriad economic and health benefits accompany health insurance. These are well documented in Center for Rural Affairs’ reports. To deny people those benefits and the security and well-being they bring and then tell them they are better off is absurd and immoral.

It’s also dishonest, as the Commonwealth Fund Biennial Health Insurance Survey shows. The 2014 survey found that Medicaid outperforms private health insurance in many respects. All measures show those receiving Medicaid are significantly better off than those without health insurance.

Medicaid is not a perfect source of healthcare coverage. Provider reimbursements are low, which makes many providers less likely to accept Medicaid patients. Physicians in rural areas, however, are more likely to participate in the Medicaid program and accept all or new Medicaid patients. Research shows practicing in a rural area is one of the factors associated with higher physician Medicaid participation.

Medicaid services are also susceptible to state budget cuts, private insurance is not. But to say Medicaid is not worthy health insurance and that low-income individuals and families and people with disabilities are better off being uninsured is simply false.

 

Jon M. Bailey is a rural policy and research expert and former Center for Rural Affairs policy and research director. Contact him at jonmbailey1@gmail.com.

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