Oregon, for the past two years, has massively increased access to Medicaid. (Correction: It wasn’t a massive increase, it was a drastic reduction and then more money was found to support 10,000 more participants when 90,000 were still eligible.) Participants in the expansion were chosen by lottery. This has led to a unique opportunity to study the effects of wider access to healthcare on the poor. The results of that study were recently released.
The study is seen as a presage of what things will look like for poor people under Obamacare. And, besides the ridiculous lottery aspect of it, it is.
The study shows that those added to Medicaid have no better medical outcomes than those that weren’t added to Medicaid. This has led to a large amount of gloating from people who oppose Obamacare. Oh noes! Obamacare is a failure! We told you it was a giant boondoggle!
Not quite. First and foremost, Obamacare, like Medicaid, is insurance. Plain and simple. Insurance protects you financially. Period. And the study shows much better financial outcomes for those on Medicaid. Expecting better health outcomes because you suddenly have health insurance is like expecting not to get into a car accident because you have car insurance. It’s ridiculous.
There were also many other benefits associated with being on Medicaid. These include drastically lowered rates of depression, better diagnosis and management of diabetes, and increased use of health services.
The mental health aspect of the study is enormous. This cannot be understated. Those in the Medicaid group had a 30% reduction in the rates of depression. Depression leads to all sorts of other issues that don’t show up on a health screen. Economic and social outcomes can be greatly affected by depression. Being poor is bad enough. Being poor and depressed can be disastrous. If the only thing that Obamacare succeeds at is reducing depression by 30%, it will be well worth the money spent.
All in all, the Oregon Experiment is a good study for Obamacare. Opponents, of course, will continue to pick any little nit they can find and there are certainly plenty of nits worth picking. But, like I’m fond of saying, Obamacare is a bag of doggie poo left on the doorstep of America, but what was there before was a flaming bag of doggie poo. Baby steps.