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Medicaid Coverage Doesn't Lead to Better Physical Health

After two years, no reductions noted in measured BP, cholesterol, or glycated hemoglobin levels

THURSDAY, May 2 (HealthDay News) -- Medicaid coverage does not seem to produce improvements in measured physical health outcomes within two years, but does have some effects, including increased use of health care services and reduced financial strain, according to research published in the May 2 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Katherine Baicker, Ph.D., from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues examined the effects of expanding Medicaid coverage using data from the 2008 Medicaid expansion in Oregon, which was based on lottery drawings from a waiting list. Data were obtained about two years after the lottery for 6,387 who adults were able to apply for Medicaid coverage and 5,842 who were not selected to apply.

The researchers found that Medicaid coverage had no significant effect on the prevalence, diagnosis, or use of medications for hypertension or high cholesterol. There was a significant increase in the probability of a diabetes diagnosis with Medicaid coverage and of the use of diabetes medication, but no significant effect was noted on the average glycated hemoglobin levels or on the percentage of participants with a glycated hemoglobin level of 6.5 percent or higher. The probability of screening positive for depression was significantly decreased with Medicaid coverage, while the use of many preventive services increased, and catastrophic out-of-pocket expenses were nearly eliminated.

"We found that insurance led to increased access to and utilization of health care, substantial improvements in mental health, and reductions in financial strain, but we did not observe reductions in measured blood-pressure, cholesterol, or glycated hemoglobin levels," the authors write.

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