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Claire Moshenberg's picture

Feeling jaded lately, like you've heard it all? Well, get ready for some fresh new facts. Here are four surprising facts about Medicaid:

1 in 3 children are covered by Medicaid.

31 million children are on Medicaid, which is about half of the 60 million Americans the program covers. That's nearly 1 in 3 children who are receiving their health care coverage from Medicaid. The Kaiser Foundation points out that "The recession [drove] many previously middle-income children onto the program, providing coverage their parents no doubt value."

We know how important health insurance is for kids. According to the Children's Defense Fund, "Uninsured children are 10 times more likely than insured children to have unmet medical needs, such as untreated asthma, diabetes or obesity." They're also more likely to perform poorly in school.

America likes Medicaid.

Based on a lot of the rhetoric out there on Medicaid, it may come as a surprise that Medicaid is a fairly popular program in the public's opinion. A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that:

  • Only 13% of those polled were willing to see major reductions in Medicaid, the same percentage as for public education.
  • 46% percent of independents and a little more than a third (35%) of Republicans said they would "not support any reductions at all" in Medicaid to reduce the deficit.
  • 59% of the American people said Medicaid was either "very important" to them or their families (39%) or "somewhat important" (20%).

 The Kaiser Family Foundation points to the personal importance of Medicaid as a reason for it's popularity. According to the Children's Defense Fund, Medicaid has covered about 20 percent of adults at some point in their lives. The numbers above points to the positive impact Medicaid has had on so many Americans; this year alone, Medicaid will cover more than 60 million people.

Medicaid covers 40% of births.

That's more than four in ten births. Medicaid covers 1.68 million births a year, out of the four million births that occur annually nationwide. Because of Medicaid's flexibility, many states have adjusted their eligibility requirements for pregnant women so that more pregnant women are able to get the health care coverage they need. Medicaid also provides prenatal care, which is critical for pregnant women: Babies who do not get prenatal care are three times more likely to have a low birth weight and five times more likely to die than those born to mothers who do get care.

Being covered by Medicaid is better than being uninsured.

I know, this sounds obvious, right? If we were in a 90's sitcom, a laugh track sprinkled with "Duh!" would get pressed right now. But the myth that being uninsured trumps Medicaid coverage has been trotted out for eons. A fascinating study on Oregon's Medicaid program refutes this tired argument once and for all.

Because of an unusual set of circumstances in Oregon, researchers were able to do a gold standard clinical trial that compared two groups of people who were eligible for Medicaid: One group was chosen in a lottery to receive Medicaid coverage, the other was not. (Read a summary of the study in this NY Times Op-Ed, or check out the full study by clicking here)

In the first year, the group that was covered by Medicaid was more likely to see a doctor, take prescription drugs, and get preventative services like mammograms. They were also in a better state financially because they were less likely to have medical bills go to a collection agency, to pay out of pocket, or to not pay other bills because of medical expenses. The authors of the study said there was " an overwhelming sense from the survey outcomes that individuals feel better about their health.

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