The Value Of Medicaid: Providing Access To Care And Preventive Health Services

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Key Takeaways

Adults and children enrolled in a Medicaid health plan had significantly better access to care and preventive services than people with no health coverage.

Overall, this analysis demonstrates a consistent pattern of strong, statistically significant relationships between insurance coverage—whether commercial or Medicaid—and access to care and preventive care services.

The findings from this study refute outdated, less rigorous studies that question the value of Medicaid, and add to the growing number of recent studies that demonstrate the value of having insurance coverage generally, and Medicaid more specifically.

Summary

Over 74 million Americans are currently insured under Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. More than 52 million low-income individuals—representing nearly 70 percent of total Medicaid enrollment—rely on private health plans for their Medicaid coverage. Since its inception in the mid-1960s, the Medicaid program has provided needed financial security to millions of Americans. Medicaid has consistently proven to be a valuable and reliable source of access to health care to the millions of vulnerable enrollees who need it most.

Recent studies of people with Medicaid coverage have found they have access to care and use preventive care services at rates comparable to those with commercial insurance; both groups have far better experiences than the uninsured. However, some critics of the Medicaid program have raised questions about patient access to care and quality based on several commonly cited studies that include outdated data and/or methodological weaknesses that challenge the validity and generalizability of their conclusions.

To assess the nature of care Medicaid enrollees receive, AHIP researchers analyzed data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) of Medicaid beneficiaries, and people covered by commercial insurance, as well as the uninsured. Specifically, we compared measures of access to care and the provision of preventive services to people enrolled in a Medicaid health plan or those covered by a commercial health plan with those who were uninsured during the 2013-2015 timeframe.

As a secondary analysis, the same analyses were conducted for enrollees of Medicaid health plans vs. commercial health plans vs. uninsured during the 2007-2009 timeframe, in order to describe any changes in care access and preventive services before the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

We found that adults and children enrolled in a Medicaid health plan had significantly better access to care and preventive services than people with no health coverage. For example:

  • Adult Medicaid enrollees were almost five times more likely, and children were four times more likely, to have a usual source of care than people with no health coverage.
  • Adults were more than four times more likely, and children were two-to-three times more likely, to receive certain preventive care services than people with no health insurance.

Overall, this analysis shows a consistent pattern of strong, statistically significant relationships between insurance coverage—whether commercial or Medicaid—and access to care and preventive care services:

  • Across multiple measures, people with Medicaid coverage reported better access than people with no health insurance.
  • Adults and children enrolled in Medicaid health plans appeared to have access to care and preventive services at levels similar to people who have commercial health coverage.

The findings from this study refute outdated, less rigorous studies that question the value of Medicaid, and add to the growing number of recent studies that demonstrate the value of having insurance coverage generally, and Medicaid more specifically.

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