The Affordable Care Act was supposed to help millions of the uninsured to enroll in private health programs. However, the great majority of Obamacare enrollees are signing up for government-supported Medicaid programs instead.
Ironically, some of the enrollees are not willingly choosing Medicaid. Rather, they are being shifted onto Medicaid because their current private insurance policies, falling short of the new Obamacare law requirements, have been unexpectedly canceled, and their income levels automatically make them "Medicaid-eligible."
According to Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors, "We're seeing a huge spike in terms of Medicaid enrollments."
CBS News has reported that in Washington State, 87 percent of the more than 35,000 people newly enrolled were signed up for Medicaid. In Kentucky, 82 percent of new enrollments were in Medicaid. In New York, that figure is 64 percent. Other states running their own exchanges report similar results.
Unfortunately, studies conducted over the last several years have demonstrated that on balance people on Medicaid often receive medical treatment markedly inferior in quality than the treatment they can expect in private plans. In many cases, it was found that being uninsured was a better alternative to being covered by Medicaid.
An article in the Wall Street Journal summarized a host of clinical studies demonstrating that in many cases Medicaid can be hazardous to your health. A 2010 study of 1,231 patients with throat cancer revealed that that Medicaid patients were 50% more likely to die than patients insured privately. Medicaid patients had an 80% greater chance of having tumors that spread to at least one lymph node than those with private insurance. Studies reveal similar poor outcomes for Medicaid patients suffering from breast and colon cancer.
When compared to those with private insurance as well as the uninsured, patients covered by Medicaid were almost twice as likely to die during their hospital stay. One study revealed that Medicaid patients undergoing coronary angioplasty were 59% more likely to suffer heart attacks and strokes, compared with patients with private insurance. In another recent study, Medicaid patients who underwent lung transplants, when compared with both the privately insured and uninsured, were 8.1% less likely to survive 10 years after the surgery. Medicaid patients had a higher chance of suffering a major heart attack after angioplasty than uninsured patients.
The researchers conducting these studies controlled for the cultural and socioeconomic factors that might negatively impact the health of Medicaid's poorer patients.
Medicaid patients suffer poor medical outcomes for a number of reasons. The program has been drastically reducing payments to doctors and other healthcare providers for a variety of treatments. These payouts will shrink even more under Obamacare, further reducing the pool of doctors willing to service Medicaid patients. Meanwhile, Medicaid patients have problems gaining timely access to both specialized and routine medical treatment. Many researchers have concluded that the best and the brightest practitioners and specialists are choosing not to participate in a program that sets fees so low.
Truth be told, the growth of the Medicaid patient pool will lead to long waits for medical service that over time will get worse, not better, as the number and quality of doctors serving the growing patient pool shrinks. The tragedy is that many who were shifted from private insurance to Medicaid because of Obamacare regulations will experience a brand of medical care inferior to the service they previously enjoyed.
Clearly, Medicaid is broken and needs to fixed. With over a hundred million Americans predicted to lose their employer-based medical insurance in 2014, the situation will only get worse,
It is imperative that Congress begin examining Medicaid's track record as well as the medical fate awaiting the millions who could suddenly and unexpectedly find themselves on this program.
Expect Obamacare to be the central issue of the 2014 Congressional elections.