Rigorous research, not anecdotes, should guide Obamacare debate

As states and consumers debate making changes to Medicaid and other public health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act, care should be taken to make sure health policy is shaped by rigorous research rather than by personal anecdotes that may be compelling but not represent the real needs or desires of the population, Katherine Baicker, C. Boyden Gray Professor of Health Economics at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, and MIT economics professor Amy Finkelstein wrote in a December 9, 2016 blog in Health Affairs.

Citing examples of conflicting anecdotes about the use of emergency rooms and doctor visits gleaned from their previous studies of Medicaid recipients in Oregon, the authors wrote, “In medical research, randomized controlled trials have long been the standard, but such rigorous methods are too rarely used to answer major health policy questions.” And, they added, “the media needs to resist the urge to allow unsubstantiated anecdotes to stand in for real evidence—despite the fact that readers may be drawn in by anecdotes.”

Read the Health Affairs blog: What’s The Story With Obamacare?

Take the authors’ interactive quiz: The Impact of Extending Medicaid Coverage

Learn more         

Increase in visits to emergency departments persists following Medicaid expansion (Harvard Chan News)

Having Medicaid increases emergency room visits (Harvard Chan News)

Two takes on the Oregon Medicaid study

Medicaid increases use of health care, decreases financial strain, and improves health for recipients

Hitting the lottery (Harvard Public Health Review)