Within the White House, within the Democratic chambers in Congress and among the (overwhelmingly liberal) health policy community there was considerable anguish last week. The reason: a new study finds that (as far as physical health is concerned) there is no difference between being in Medicaid and being uninsured.
It’s hard to exaggerate what a blow this is to the people who gave us the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare). Everything about ObamaCare—from the money we are spending to the damage being done to the labor market to the hassles the whole nation is going through—depends on one central idea: that enrolling people in Medicaid will give them access to better health. (Tens of thousands of lives will be saved every year, the president told us.)
It gets worse. Beginning next year, ObamaCare is expected to newly insure about 34 million people. About half of these will enroll in Medicaid. The other half are supposed to get their insurance in health insurance exchanges, where most will qualify for generous premium subsidies paid for by federal taxpayers. If the Massachusetts health reform is precedent, however, these people will be in health plans that pay doctors only about 10 percent morethan what Medicaid pays. Think of these plans as Medicaid Plus.
Yet, if Medicaid doesn’t make people any healthier than they were when they were uninsured, that implies that the entire ObamaCare program could be one huge waste of money.
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