Monday, October 13, 2014

Medicaid expansion increases rural health care access, study finds

Expanding Medicaid to cover more adults boosts health care access and use in rural populations, says a study published in Health Services Research, Stephanie Stephens reports for Health Behavior News Service. The study, using data from January 2007 to September 2012, focused on childless adults in rural Wisconsin, a state that "expanded public health insurance to include that group under a Medicaid special waiver."

"The Wisconsin Medicaid expansion began July 1, 2009, but was closed after three months after more than 60,000 participants enrolled, leaving 100,000 hopeful applicants on a waitlist," Stephens writes. "The researchers compared people on the waitlist who wanted coverage but didn’t get it with people who were enrolled, in order to examine the effect of insurance status on health care use."

Study author Laura Dague, Ph.D. an assistant professor at the Bush School of Government & Public Service at Texas A&M University, told Stephens, “So many people signed up that there simply wasn’t enough money to fund the program." Dague, who said she hopes future research will examine effects on varied populations, told Stephens, “The effects of insurance really depend upon on underlying populations and the current level of access to care." (Read more)

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