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Oregon study shows obtaining Medicaid improves financial security


On May 1, the New England Journal of Medicine published a further analysis of the Oregon Health Study, showing significant gains in financial security for Medicaid beneficiaries. Catastrophic health costs of more than 30% of annual income nearly were eliminated for those who obtained Medicaid, addressing a major cause of bankruptcy and homelessness. There also were statistically significant reductions in having medical debt, skipping payments or borrowing to pay bills.

News accounts have focused on the lack of statistically significant improvements in certain health indicators, particularly blood pressure, cholesterol and glycated hemoglobin levels. While the lack of statistical change during the two-year window is surprising, it obscures the primary purpose of insurance: to protect against financial ruin, according to the analysis.

“Homelessness is often the result of a downward spiral that begins with illness and ends up in destitution due to healthcare costs,” John Lozier, executive director of the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, said in a news release. “The results of the Oregon Health Study show that Medicaid coverage virtually eliminates the risk that healthcare needs will lead to catastrophic financial costs, undercutting a primary cause of homelessness.”

Additional findings of the Oregon study included a 30% reduction in depression, increased use of preventive services, such as mammograms and colonoscopies and increased use of healthcare services generally.

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