Additionally, the study compared the experiences of those in states that had participated in the Affordable Care Acts’s Medicaid expansion prior to March 2015 against those in the 22 states that did not. It found that there was a greater reduction (by a difference of 5.2 percent) of the uninsured rate for those in Medicaid expansion states, as well as greater gains in access to doctors and medicine, than those in non-Medicaid expansion states.
“As states continue to debate whether to expand Medicaid under the ACA, these results add to the growing body of research indicating that such expansions are associated with significant benefits for low-income populations,” the study said.
For the survey, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard Medical School's Brigham & Women's Hospital, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services looked at phone surveys of more than 500,000 Americans, nearly 50,000 of them in the lower-income bracket. The study used data from phone surveys that were conducted continually from January 2012 through March 2015, which included two Obamacare enrollment periods. The study was published in the July 28 issue of JAMA.
The study cautioned that researchers couldn’t be certain that Obamacare had prompted the reported improvements in healthcare access, and outside factors such as the economic recovery could have played a role. (Researchers did control for economic-related variables like income, individual employment, and state unemployment rates). Researchers expressed more confidence in the Medicaid portion of the study since the non-Medicaid states functioned as a natural control group, but still acknowledged that the sample size in that portion of the analysis was much smaller than the overall study.