A new study recently released in the New England Journal of Medicine analyzed data from 10,000 low-income individuals randomly selected to apply for Medicaid coverage, comparing them to an identical group of people who did not have access to it. The study, known as the Oregon Health Study, hoped to verify the effect expanded health care coverage had on individuals’ health and wellbeing.
The ultimate result: Expanded coverage did not improve individual health outcomes. In fact, the results could be considered more harmful than positive.
This research is the perfect template to analyze whether or not ObamaCare is going to be an effective tool in making Americans healthier. Some of the parameters the study measured included blood pressure, cholesterol, hemoglobin A1c, screening for depression, self-reported diagnosis, health care utilization and out-of-pocket expenses.
This was a randomized controlled study, and the conclusion was quite startling to me. Despite the fact that there was expanded Medicaid coverage, it really did not significantly improve the health outcomes of the participants in the first two years of coverage. But it did raise some negative aspects, such as individuals spending more on their health care needs and increased use of health care services.
There were some positive findings. Medicaid expansion did help doctors pick up more diabetes diagnoses, and individuals reported lower rates of depression as well as a reduced financial burden on the participants’ families.
However, while diabetes was detected more, the Oregon study really did not show a reduction in blood pressure, cholesterol or hemoglobin A1c levels, which are active measures of diabetic management.
What scares me the most is that this offers a false sense of hope for individuals, because it is showing little actual health benefits. What it really is doing is increasing the cost of health care, and that is just a bad formula for our future.
This is a perfect example of how politics and medicine don’t mix.