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COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE

Potential adult Medicaid beneficiaries under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act compared with current adult Medicaid beneficiaries

Tammy Chang, Matthew Davis
Annals of Family Medicine 2013, 11 (5): 406-11
24019271

PURPOSE: Under health care reform, states will have the opportunity to expand Medicaid to millions of uninsured US adults. Information regarding this population is vital to physicians as they prepare for more patients with coverage. Our objective was to describe demographic and health characteristics of potentially eligible Medicaid beneficiaries.

METHODS: We performed a cross-sectional study using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2007-2010) to identify and compare adult US citizens potentially eligible for Medicaid under provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) with current adult Medicaid beneficiaries. We compared demographic characteristics (age, sex, race/ethnicity, education) and health measures (self-reported health status; measured body mass index, hemoglobin A1c level, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, depression screen [9-item Patient Health Questionnaire], tobacco smoking, and alcohol use).

RESULTS: Analyses were based on an estimated 13.8 million current adult non-elderly Medicaid beneficiaries and 13.6 million nonelderly adults potentially eligible for Medicaid. Potentially eligible individuals are expected to be more likely male (49.2% potentially eligible vs 33.3% current beneficiaries; P <.001), to be more likely white and less likely black (58.8% white, 20.0% black vs 49.9% white, 25.2% black; P = .02), and to be statistically indistinguishable in terms of educational attainment. Overall, potentially eligible adults are expected to have better health status (34.8% "excellent" or "very good," 40.4% "good") than current beneficiaries (33.5% "excellent" or "very good," 31.6% "good"; P <.001). The proportions obese (34.5% vs 42.9%; P = .008) and with depression (15.5% vs 22.3%; P = .003) among potentially eligible individuals are significantly lower than those for current beneficiaries, while there are no significant differences in the expected prevalence of diabetes or hypertension. Current tobacco smoking (49.2% vs 38.0%; P = .002), and moderate and heavier alcohol use (21.6% vs 16.0% and 16.5% vs 9.8%; P <.001, respectively) are more common among the potentially eligible population than among current beneficiaries.

CONCLUSIONS: Under the ACA, physicians can anticipate a potentially eligible Medicaid population with equal if not better current health status and lower prevalence of obesity and depression than current Medicaid beneficiaries. Federal Medicaid expenditures for newly covered beneficiaries therefore may not be as high as anticipated in the short term. Given the higher prevalence of tobacco smoking and alcohol use, however, broad enrollment and engagement of this potentially eligible population is needed to address their higher prevalence of modifiable risk factors for future chronic disease.

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