Reform's new Medicaid patients may need initial intensive care

While uninsured low-income adults who may be eligible for Medicaid under healthcare reform had better overall health than Medicaid enrollees, they will likely need initial intensive medical care to deal with undiagnosed and uncontrolled conditions, according to a study to appear in the June 26 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

To better understand the scope of medical services required for new Medicaid recipients, the study compared data for 1,042 uninsured adults aged 19 to 64 with income below 138 percent of the federal poverty level with 471 low-income adults enrolled in Medicaid, according to the research announcement.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers found fewer uninsured adults had high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes than those receiving Medicaid.

However, among uninsured adults who did have one of those chronic conditions, at least one of the diseases was uncontrolled in 80.1 percent, compared with 63.4 percent of Medicaid recipients who had uncontrolled conditions. And more than one third (34.8 percent) of uninsured adults had not seen a physician or other healthcare professional in the past year, compared with only 8 percent of Medicaid recipients, according to the study.

In addition to forgoing a doctor's visit, the researchers pointed to several factors that could cause uninsured adults to need care right after enrolling in Medicaid: one-third were obese, half were smokers and one-fourth reported a functional limitation.

"If Medicaid uptake is low, the uninsured adults who do enroll in Medicaid may be disproportionately drawn from those with more health problems than average among those made newly eligible," the study states.

For more:
- here's the research announcement
- check out the JAMA study