The politics of health care in America can be a messy subject, with discussions often generating more heat than light. But decision-makers need facts in order to do what’s best for the people they represent. A recent study of the financial impacts associated with people taking part in the Medicaid expansion in Michigan aimed to provide details instead of political talking points.
While other studies have shown Medicaid expansion has improved access to health care for those gaining coverage, the nonprofit National Bureau of Economic Research looked at the financial well-being of enrollees after the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion in the state.
Among their findings: Medical costs dropped 57 percent, and the amount of past-due debt fell by 28 percent. There were significant reductions in the number of evictions, bankruptcies and wage garnishments. Before signing up, about 45 percent of enrollees said they had trouble paying their medical bills, and about 26 percent said they had gone without care because of concerns about costs. Both measures fell after enrollment.
People on the program also were 16 percent less likely to overdraw their credit cards. The enrollees now had better access to credit markets and were offered lower interest rates. The use of high-interest rate payday loans to pay for medical care dropped once enrollees gained Medicaid coverage.
The researchers noted the study only examined one state and the results could be different elsewhere because of different demographics, social service programs and other factors. But they said the study shed important light on the role of Medicaid in providing financial protections to low-income individuals.