Medicaid is Failing Low-Income Americans

By Gloria Taylor

A new study released last week by the New England Journal of Medicine shows the expansion of Medicaid in Oregon has led to a persistent increase in ER visits. This report comes on the heels of the Oregon Health Insurance Experiment.

In 2008, Oregon expanded its Medicaid program through a lottery to eligible citizens. Such a limited expansion set the stage for research to examine the true effect of having insurance through Medicaid or no insurance at all. Shockingly, the research showed Medicaid coverage had no significant effect on physical health. While Medicaid increased the amount of hospitalizations, prescription medications, and emergency department visits, it had no impact on health factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol, or cardiovascular risk.

The results from this Oregon study only draw further attention to the problems conservatives have long raised with Medicaid. The government program providing health care insurance to low-income Americans is one of the biggest culprits of unrestrained government spending. Obamacare expanded Medicaid even more with the government offering to pick up the tab for associated costs. As millions more Americans became eligible, spending increased a whopping 49% per enrollee in 2015.

Yet with all of this spending, what are patients getting? Oregon indicates there is no health benefit and study after study shows that Medicaid patients have poor access to quality health care and providers. Despite the massive increases in government spending, some doctors are refusing to accept new Medicaid patients due to low federal reimbursement rates paying physicians about 66 percent of what Medicare would pay. As Medicaid funding eats up state budgets, they become dependent on more and more federal money. With lower access to quality care and primary physicians, patients are driven to emergency rooms where they get inefficient, expensive care and contribute to ER crowding, leaving taxpayers on the hook for treatment.

The well-documented flaws of Medicaid and its expansion under Obamacare, call for a bold Congressional response. Not only does Obamacare need to be repealed and replaced with a free-market patient centered model, Medicaid itself needs serious reform. Congress ought to address the failure of Medicaid to provide accessible quality care by refocusing Medicaid as a primary safety-net program and put Medicaid on a real, multi-year budget to better steward taxpayer dollars.

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