Low-income residents prefer Medicaid over private insurance


For three southern states--Arkansas, Kentucky and Texas--Medicaid expansion popularity continues to grow. Nearly 80 percent of residents in these states favor the expansion. And many view Medicaid as comparable to or even better than private insurance in terms of quality and affordability, according to a recent study from Health Affairs. 

The report's authors conducted a telephone survey in late 2013 of nearly 3,000 low-income residents in the three aforementioned states.

Arkansas began making headlines back in 2013 when it became the first state to use funds to buy private insurance for consumers eligible for the state-federal health program.

Then Kentucky became the 21st state to expand Medicaid, proven the effectiveness of the program. From September 2013 to June 2014, Kentucky's uninsured rate fell from 20.4 percent to 11.9 percent, thanks, in part, to Medicaid.

Even though Medicaid expansion is gaining traction in these states, few residents were aware that such an option was available starting this year. Only around 30 percent of those eligible in each state heard or read Medicaid would be offered in 2014, notes the report.

But those who were aware of the expansion hold favorable views of the program, and believe having such coverage is better than remaining uninsured, according to the study.

"In the debate over whether or not states should participate in Medicaid expansion, we rarely hear the perspectives of those people most directly impacted by policies surrounding Medicaid," said study co-author Benjamin Sommers, an assistant professor of health policy and economics at the Harvard School of Public Health.

"Our survey shows that expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act is quite popular among lower-income Americans and that they generally consider Medicaid to be good coverage."

For more:
- here's the study
- here's the HSPH announcement

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Kentucky becomes 21st state to expand Medicaid
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