Two states improve care access, despite taking different paths to Medicaid expansion

Two different approaches to expanding Medicaid eligibility had the same result: improved access to healthcare for low-income adults, according to a new study.

The study, published in Health Affairs, found that both Arkansas and Kentucky were able to significantly reduce the number of insured low-income adults from 2013 to 2014, the first year both states expanded Medicaid eligibility.

Low-income adults in both states had similar improvements in access to medical care under the Affordable Care Act, the study found.

That improvement occurred with the traditional Medicaid program in Kentucky and the so-called private option in Arkansas, where the state uses Medicaid funds to purchase private insurance coverage through the federal insurance marketplace.

Both states expanded their Medicaid programs to cover most adults with incomes under 138 percent of the federal poverty level as allowed by the ACA. In both Arkansas and Kansas, the number of uninsured low-income adults dropped by 14 percentage points, compared to another southern state--Texas, which did not expand its Medicaid program under the ACA.

Thirty states and the District of Columbia have expanded eligibility for Medicaid under the ACA. Several states, including Arkansas, have used the private option.

Along with a decline in the number of uninsured, Medicaid expansion in Kansas and Arkansas led to significant improvements in affordability of care, access to prescription medications and regular care for individuals with chronic conditions, as compared to Texas--the researchers found.

The findings concur with another recent study that found the ACA improved care affordability and access, though large gaps persist, particularly for low-income adults. Medicaid expansion states have experienced a greater drop in the number of uninsured, as well as an increase in access to care.

To learn more:
- read the study