May 3 2013
The basic premise of ObamaCare is that increasing access to health insurance lowers overall health care costs. This seems like a sensible proposition, doesn’t it? Force the uninsured to buy health insurance policies, the argument goes, and costs will come tumbling down for two reasons: one, because more people will be paying monthly premiums, and two, because increasing access to health insurance will save a lot of money in the long run, as more people will take advantage of preventative care and diagnostic testing.
According to the Left, the most compelling reason to support ObamaCare is that it will make health care more affordable. Yet this cost-reduction narrative is almost entirely false. There is ample evidence to suggest that expanding Medicaid to cover the uninsured will increase health care costs dramatically. The Washington Examiner published an article today detailing a comprehensive new study that finds expanding Medicaid both increases health care spending and fails to improve the health of the previously uninsured. This is a double-whammy for the Administration: not only will expanding insurance coverage fail to reduce costs, but it will also fail to improve overall health:
Contrary to liberal assumptions, researchers found that those who enrolled in Medicaid spent a lot more on medical care than those who weren’t able to enroll, but didn’t significantly improve their health outcomes…those who received Medicaid increased their annual health care spending by $1,172, or 35 percent more than those who did not receive Medicaid.
It turns out increased access to health care means more exams and prescriptions, but not necessarily healthier patients. Even earlier detection of diseases like diabetes fails to reduce costs:
This randomized, controlled study showed that Medicaid coverage generated no significant improvements in measured health outcomes in the first two years, but it did increase use of health services, raise rates of diabetes detection and management, lower rates of depression, and reduce financial strain.
The most remarkable finding was that all of these free doctor visits did not even deter the most expensive habit of the uninsured: frequent emergency room visits. The Examiner reports that “though medical spending increased among Medicaid enrollees due to more prescription drug usage and doctors’ visits, the study ‘did not find significant changes in visits to the emergency department or hospital admissions.’ This undercuts another favorite talking point of liberals, which is that expanding insurance actually saves money by reducing costly emergency room visits.”
What a rosy deal Obamacare is turning out to be for the American people. If forcing citizens to buy insurance policies increases health care costs and fails to improve overall health, as this study indicates, then what is the point? “Health care reform” should bring a more effective, or at least a more efficient, health care system. This “train wreck” fails on both counts.