Enrollees Actually Like Medicaid, Harvard Says

Medicaid, Harvard thinks you’re the real deal. No joke, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health reports through a new study. Apparently enrollees in Medicaid feel they’re actually pretty fortunate to have the coverage that they do. In fact, they are largely satisfied with the healthcare they receive under the program, the Harvard study cites.

Most Medicaid enrollees said that they have good access to physicians. And, only a few of these recipients say they have experienced barriers to accessing care because of their Medicaid insurance.

The findings were published in JAMA Internal Medicine. Despite the perceived notion that Medicaid is a failing, program devoid of coverage, this study seems to suggest that, for some, it is not a completely broken program that doesn’t provide proper access to care. The obvious takeaway here is that the program is considered successful for many who may need it most.

Politically speaking, this report is a major win for those who support the Affordable Care Act, which helped further fund the federal, state-administered health program designed to serve low-income individuals. Thirty-one states and DC increased the program in their jurisdiction under the ACA.

According to the Harvard Chan researchers, analyzed data from the “first-ever National Medicaid Consumer Assessment of Health Providers and System (CAHPS) survey,” which was aimed at assessing people’s experiences with Medicaid, more than 270,000 people responded to the survey, which was administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services from December 2014 to July 2015 to Medicaid enrollees in 46 U.S. states, some of which expanded Medicaid under the ACA and some of which didn’t.

The researchers then produced nationally representative estimates of Medicaid enrollees’ satisfaction with the program. Findings included on a zero to 10 scale, with zero representing “the worst healthcare possible” and 10 representing “the best health care possible,” respondents gave their overall healthcare an average rating of 7.9 (79 percent or a C+ grade). Additionally, 84 percent of enrollees reported that they’d been able to get all the care that they or their physician believed was necessary -- in the past six months, and 83 percent (a B grade) reported having a usual source of care. However, 3 percent reported not being able to get care because of waiting times or physicians not accepting their Medicaid insurance.  

The researchers noted that program satisfaction was high in states that expanded Medicaid and in states that did not across all demographic groups.

“The debate on the future of Medicaid has largely marginalized a crucial voice: the perspective of enrollees. Our findings confirm that Medicaid programs are fulfilling their mission to provide access to necessary medical care,” said Michael Barnett, assistant professor of health policy and management at Harvard Chan School in a statement.

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Scott Rupp

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Scott E. Rupp is a writer and an award-winning journalist focused on healthcare technology. He has worked as a public relations executive for a major electronic health record/practice management vendor, and he currently manages his own agency, millerrupp. In addition to writing for a variety of publications, Scott also offers his insights on healthcare technology and its leaders on his site, Electronic Health Reporter.

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