One of the GOP talking points to defend slashing federal Medicaid spending is that it doesn’t provide good health care. A survey conducted by the Department of Health Policy and Management at Harvard’s Chan School found the exact opposite.
Politics is not reputed for fully factual discourse. In this case, the claim appears to be pretty close to false.
NPR reported that 84 percent of Medicaid patients said they were able to access all the health care they needed in the previous six months. Only 3 percent said they experienced long wait lines or doctors who refused to take Medicaid patients. The results applied across the board for patients in the traditional Medicaid program, Medicaid managed care plans and among the elderly and disabled, regardless whether they were in states with expanded Medicaid programs. Researchers did not include patients accessing Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act expansion or patients in nursing homes.
House Speaker Paul Ryan belittled Medicaid last spring when the House was considering the GOP American Health Care Act. “I mean, what good is your coverage if you can’t get a doctor?” Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price used a similar argument last month at a congressional hearing, claiming one third of US doctors refuse to accept Medicaid enrollees.
According to Michael Barnett, who authored the Harvard survey report, researchers evaluated data from more than 270,000 Americans enrolled in Medicaid in 2013. Barnett said the average rating of Medicaid patients was 7.9 out of 10, with 10 representing “the best health care possible.” He added that almost half of patients gave Medicaid a 9 or 10 rating. “If nearly half the people are giving it nearly a perfect score, that’s pretty good,” Barnett told NPR.
“Part of what motivated this study is that there is a lot of rhetoric and what we would call misinformation around ‘What does Medicaid do, how effective is it, and how satisfied are enrollees with their coverage?’” he said. “This is the survey that really provides the most reliable large-scale information that we have to date, [with] over 270,000 enrollees, and they’re largely satisfied.”
The findings seem to be borne out by on-the-ground reactions to Republican health care legislation that would give states more control over Medicaid and slash federal funding over the next decade by as much as $800 billion. Lawmakers from both political parties report larger-than-normal crowds at their town hall meetings with many people pleading to avoid steep spending cuts on Medicaid.
While Medicaid is largely viewed as a health care program for the poor, the largest amount of Medicaid reimbursements is for health care for older people and disable persons. Medicaid pays for 62 percent of seniors living in nursing homes. Medicaid also pays for 50 percent of all births in the United States.