According to a new study, the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare has resulted in fewer Americans being uninsured and more people keeping their blood pressure and blood sugar under control.
According to Boston University researchers, the gains are particularly high among Black and Hispanic individuals.
“Our results suggest that over the longer-run, expanding Medicaid eligibility may improve key chronic disease health outcomes for low-income, marginalized populations, which is an important consideration for the 12 states that have not yet adopted Medicaid expansion,” said researcher Megan Cole Brahim, an assistant professor of health law, policy and management.
Her team discovered that the Affordable Treatment Act’s Medicaid expansion has resulted in improved care and service capacity at federally certified health facilities.
One out of every five Medicaid patients and one out of every three people with incomes below the federal poverty level are served by the centers.
The study found that in the 26 states that extended Medicaid by January 2014, federally designated health facilities reported a 9 percentage point decrease in uninsured patients compared to those that did not expand Medicaid.
According to the study, expansion states had a 2 percentage point rise in blood pressure and blood sugar control when compared to nonexpansion states.
The researchers looked at data from over 900 federally designated health clinics that serviced roughly 19 million patients per year for the study.
The percentage of uninsured patients in states that extended Medicaid fell from around 42 percent in 2012 to 21 percent in 2018. Meanwhile, in other states, the percentage of uninsured patients dropped from 52 percent to 42 percent.
In comparison to other states, Medicaid expansion states reported a 2 percentage point increase in high blood pressure control after five years. The improvement was even bigger among Black and Hispanic individuals, at 3 percentage points.
Improvement was also seen in blood sugar control — 2 percentage points overall 4 percentage points among Black folks and nearly 3 percentage points among Hispanic patients, the researchers reported.
“Once a patient gains health insurance coverage, associated health outcomes likely don’t improve overnight,” Cole Brahim said in a university news release.
“It takes time for patients to become better connected to care and care management while gaining access to prescription medications,” Brahim said.
She added that it also takes time for federally qualified health centers to invest new revenue into things that improve the quality of care.
Despite the improvements, however, the researchers noted that racial and ethnic disparities persist.
Co-author Timothy Levengood, a doctoral student in the health law, policy and management department, said, “We have a good sense that these disparities are reflective of the political, economic, and social systems we live in that do not currently provide equal opportunities for health on the basis of skin color.”
“Whether you can afford to regularly see a doctor and keep these conditions in check contributes substantially to whether you will develop these chronic conditions or die from them. It’s important to study relevant policy changes to these systems to combat these disparities and to craft a more equitable society for all Americans,” Levengood said.
The findings were published online this month in JAMA Health Forum.