Two takes on the Oregon Medicaid study

In a study dubbed the “Oregon Health Insurance Experiment,” researchers compared clinical outcomes among two groups of adults in Oregon—half who were on Medicaid and half who weren’t. The newest findings from the study, published online May 2, 2013 in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), have prompted a wide range of responses about the issue of whether or not states should expand Medicaid eligibility as authorized under the Affordable Care Act.

The NEJM study was coauthored by Katherine Baicker, professor of health economics at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), and Amy Finkelstein, Ford professor of economics at MIT.

Read the HSPH press release about the latest findings from the Oregon Health Insurance Experiment

Read the NEJM abstract

Two HSPH professors—Ashish Jha, professor of health policy and management, and John McDonough, professor of the practice of public health and director of the Center for Public Health Leadership, both wrote blogs stressing the importance of the benefits afforded the Medicaid group. On May 2, 2013, in his blog “An Ounce of Evidence,” Jha wrote that the finding that health didn’t improve in the Medicaid group doesn’t mean Medicaid doesn’t work, but rather that health care quality overall needs improvement. “There is some evidence that providers who disproportionately care for Medicaid patients deliver lower quality care, but the problem is much bigger than Medicaid,” he wrote. “In fact, most Americans get pretty mediocre quality health care.”

McDonough, in his Boston.com blog “Health Stew,” noted the significant drop in catastrophic medical costs and “surprising decrease in the diagnosis of depression” among Medicaid recipients. He added, “In the end, this is not a debate about numbers or data or studies. This is a debate about values. Do Americans value providing access to necessary medical services and financial protection to the most vulnerable among us or not?”

Read Ashish Jha’s blog, “Misunderstanding Oregon”

Read John McDonough’s blog, “The Oregon Tale: A Medicaid Kerfuffle”

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