Medicaid expansion leads to greater use of healthcare services

Low-income adults in states that have expanded Medicaid feel as though their health insurance options have improved, and their use of healthcare services has also increased, according to new research discussed in an editorial published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The study found increased visits to primary care physicians and overnight hospital stays among low-income adults in expansion states, as well as an increase in diagnoses of diabetes and high cholesterol. This, the researchers say, is to be expected, since increased use of coverage is reflected in "pent-up demand for health services."

The authors explain that increased access to insurance coverage probably allows for more screenings for these and other conditions, which could mean early treatment and provide important health benefits in the long-run. They add that if states monitor these trends over time, they can better prepare for patterns of use among low-income adults who gain Medicaid coverage.

The study also found that low-income adults in expansion states believed the quality of their coverage improved after their state expanded Medicaid eligibility. However, the study was not able to examine the "churn" of eligibility that can lead people to cycle on and off Medicaid, which could disrupt and blunt the benefits of coverage, the authors say.

Overall, implementation of the Affordable Care Act resulted in major gains in insurance coverage for low-income, minority and immigrant populations, FierceHealthPayer has reported.

To learn more:
- here is the editorial