Medicaid Expansion: The Issue of Access

In a recent ranking by the Commonwealth Fund, the American health care system was fifth in terms of quality but 11th for access, efficiency, equity, healthy living, and cost. In an opinion piece published by Al Jazeera America, Columbia’s Maria Hamm de Miguel, MD, explains why the expansion of Medicaid is important to improving access.

Dr. Hamm de Miguel, assistant professor of medicine at Columbia, discusses how the Affordable Care Act was created to address the issue of access for 47 million uninsured Americans, but only 26 states have expanded Medicaid as planned, leaving millions of Americans without coverage.

Primary care not only improves physical health but also offers a lifeline to the larger system of care, such as mental health and social services. Likewise, access to primary care reduces poverty by decreasing out-of-pocket spending on health, encouraging preventive care and reducing the risk of bankruptcy from emergencies.

Dr. Hamm de Miguel describes research that shows Medicaid saves lives, citing a study that examined the effects of expanded Medicaid in New York, Maine, and Arizona, where the death rate relative to states that did not expand Medicaid dropped by 6.1 percent over a seven-year period.

Dr. Hamm de Miguel is a Public Voice Fellow with the Op-Ed Project. Read the full Al Jazeera America piece here.