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Newly Eligible for Expanded Medicaid Are Healthier

Findings based on comparisons between newly eligible under ACA and pre-ACA enrollees

MONDAY, April 7, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Persons newly eligible for expanded Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are not sicker than pre-ACA enrollees, according to research published online March 26 in Health Affairs.

Steven C. Hill, Ph.D., from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in Rockville, Md., and colleagues utilized simulation methods and data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. They sought to compare nondisabled adults enrolled in Medicaid prior to the ACA with adults who were eligible for Medicaid but not enrolled in it and adults who were in the income range for the ACA's Medicaid expansion and therefore newly eligible for coverage (individuals and families with modified adjusted gross incomes below a threshold of 133 percent of federal poverty guidelines, with a 5 percent income disregard).

The researchers found that the differences in health across the groups were not large. Both the newly eligible and those eligible pre-ACA but not enrolled were healthier than pre-ACA enrollees. If the 25 states that have opted out of expanding Medicaid eligibility reverse their decisions, their Medicaid programs might not enroll a population that is sicker than their pre-ACA enrollees.

"By expanding Medicaid eligibility, states could provide coverage to millions of healthier adults as well as to millions who have chronic conditions and who need care," the authors write.

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