Arkansas Is Proof That No Matter How It’s Done, Medicaid Expansion Improves Health Care

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<p>Arkansas was the first state to choose the “private option” for Medicaid expansion—using commercial insurance plans to cover newly eligible adults. As part of a multiyear Commonwealth Fund–supported study on the impact of the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion in selected states, Bethany Maylone and Benjamin D. Sommers, M.D., of the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health explore the evidence to date on Arkansas’s waiver program, which the authors say has produced significant benefits for the state’s low-income residents.</p><p>Previously reported findings from the study showed that Arkansas’s expansion of Medicaid led to improved access to primary care and prescription medications, reduced reliance on the emergency department, increased use of preventive care, and improved health status among low-income adults. Results were similar in Kentucky, which expanded Medicaid without a federal waiver. But in Texas, a state that did not expand Medicaid in any form, there was far less improvement.</p>
<p>According to Maylone and Sommers, Arkansas’s private option “represents a pragmatic balance between the desire to expand coverage and a preference for private market-based solutions in health care.” Most important, they say, is that no matter how it’s done, broadening access to affordable coverage makes a big difference in the lives of low-income Americans.</p> Read the brief