Who Will Benefit From Medicaid Expansion and What Will it Mean for These Patients?

Oct 18, 2013, 10:00 AM, Posted by

Tammy Chang, MD, MPH, MS, is an assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School and an alumnus of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars program.


Over kitchen tables as well as on Capitol Hill, the discussion continues over the Affordable Care Act including who will benefit and what it means for everyday Americans.

To shed light on this debate, my co-author Matthew Davis, MD, MAPP, and I recently published a study that describes the characteristics of Americans potentially eligible for the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.  The study, published in the Annals of Family Medicine, uses a national source of data used by many other researchers who look at national trends—such as high blood pressure and obesity—called the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

As a family physician and policy researcher, my goal in publishing this study was to contribute helpful information to inform the current discussion around Medicaid expansion.  This is what I tell patients about what we found:

1. We learned who will benefit from Medicaid expansion.  Recent studies have found that the majority of the uninsured say they don’t have enough information about how health care reform will affect them. In states that expand Medicaid, millions more low-income and uninsured individuals will have access to affordable health care.  What our study adds is that on average this population will be younger, with more male and white individuals when compared to the current Medicaid population. 

2. We can help physicians provide the best possible care to this population of new Medicaid patients.  Health systems, health centers, and physicians will need to work together to provide care for new Medicaid enrollees. This begins with an accurate understanding of these individuals and their health needs.  Focusing on prevention as people get new health care coverage and potentially reducing the long-term effects of poor health habits could help reduce the costs of Medicare for all taxpayers in the future as these patients grow older.

3. We can help policy-makers make the best decisions for the health and well-being of the people they serve.   For states that have approved Medicaid expansion as well as for undecided states, policy-makers need information about what is at stake and how this expanded health coverage might impact these individuals.

Our hope is that these findings provide objective information on the demographics and health needs of the millions of low-income uninsured individuals who will potentially benefit from Medicaid expansion and demonstrate an opportunity for policy-makers and physicians to partner with these individuals to stay healthy today, which can decrease costs—now and in the future.

Read about another study by Chang.


This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.