Study questions value of gaining Medicaid coverage

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- There's been great debate in Missouri and Kansas over whether to expand Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income citizens.

Now research questions the value of the uninsured gaining Medicaid coverage. The study of Oregon residents is published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It found no significant improvements in diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol after two years. That was even though gaining Medicaid coverage resulted in people getting more prescriptions and more office visits.

"Those things are not gonna be impacted as much by whether or not you get in to see a doctor," says Dr. Sharon Lee of Family Health Care.

Dr. Lee says lifestyle habits play a big role in those conditions, and they can't easily be turned around in two years.

"If you're going to do a chronic condition study, it needs to be quite a bit longer than two years," says Dr. Lee.

She says the benefits of Medicaid coverage would have been clearer if researchers had looked at acute conditions such as pneumonia or broken bones.

Researchers did find that gaining Medicaid lowered depression rates and eased financial strain.

"I get bills. I've been threatened to be sued," says Carl Dieleman, who's uninsured and would like to have Medicaid coverage.

But it appears the Kansas and Missouri legislatures will not expand coverage this session.

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