As part of our larger mission to reduce disparities and advance equity, NCLR has long worked to increase the number of individuals with affordable and accessible quality health insurance coverage and care. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Medicaid program, it’s important to pause and remind ourselves what a critical resource this program has been to millions of Americans—especially children, those with disabilities, and low-income families. Today, Medicaid covers 72.2 million Americans, including 33 million children, representing the largest source of health insurance in the country.
As all of us know, the value of health insurance goes beyond better health. We know having access to the basic necessity of good health care improves the lives of people overall. It provides greater financial and social stability to families. It also markedly improves the educational prospects and chances for success later on in life for children. In short, health care is a critical building block of a better life.
Medicaid Yields Long-Term Returns
As various studies have demonstrated, Medicaid is an investment that yields long-term returns beyond the benefit of quality, affordable health insurance coverage and care. One review of the latest research highlights the various ways in which the Medicaid program provides long-term returns for children, including better health status as adults, greater academic achievement, and enhanced economic mobility. For example, children with access to Medicaid have lower incidences of high blood pressure, and report lower rates of hospitalization and emergency room visits in adulthood. Additionally, Medicaid coverage plays a role in greater academic achievement, as those who have benefited were 9.7% less likely to drop out of high school and 5.5% more likely to graduate from college.
Medicaid expansion is also reducing the costs of uncompensated care for hospitals. Overall, there was a $7.4 billion decrease in uncompensated care costs for hospitals between 2013 and 2014. States implementing Medicaid expansion programs accounted for 68% of that decrease.
Medicaid Is a Critical Resource for Latinos and NCLR Is Working to Expand that Opportunity
At least 15 million Latinos currently receive coverage through the Medicaid program. Under the Affordable Care Act, states have the option of expanding eligibility for their Medicaid programs. This would be particularly beneficial for Latinos, who remain the most uninsured group in the country. In states that have expanded their Medicaid programs through the Affordable Care Act, 26% of Latino adults aged 19–64 were uninsured, compared to 46% in states that have not expanded the program. In Florida and Texas alone, two states that have yet to expand, nearly one million Latinos stand to gain coverage.
NCLR will continue to champion the value of quality, affordable coverage—particularly the Medicaid program and its expansion—so that even more Americans, including Latinos, have the opportunity and ability to be healthy.