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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Vanderbilt: Study Links Medicaid Expansion and Recipients’ Health Status

In Southern states that expanded their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act, adults experienced lower rates of decline in both physical and mental health, according to research published this month in the journal Health Affairs.

This new research draws on data on 15,356 low-income individuals recruited predominantly at community health centers in 12 Southern states as part of the Southern Community Cohort Study. Its findings add substance to state-level debates over the merits of expansion.

“Our study is the first to consider the pathways through which, and populations for whom, expanded access to Medicaid affects the health trajectory of low-income adults,” said lead author Dr. John Graves,  associate professor of health policy at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine (VUSM). “It fills an important gap between research that has found little evidence of health effects and other research demonstrating that expanded Medicaid saved lives.”

The study, co-authored with Harvard researchers Drs. J. Michael McWilliams, Laura Hatfield and Nancy Keating, and VUMC research professor of medicine, Dr. William Blot found that expansion reduced the likelihood of low-income adults experiencing a self-reported health status decline, particularly for adults with severe mental and physical limitations.

“Our research demonstrates that access to the safety net is an inadequate substitute for coverage, and that non-expanding Southern states could materially improve population health if they accept expansion funds,” Dr. Graves said.

The study was supported by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health under grant 5R01CA189152-05.

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