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Health Serv Res. 1996 Feb;30(6):791-808.

Reconsidering the effect of Medicaid on health care services use.

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  • 1RAND, Washington, DC 20037, USA.



Our research compares health care use by Medicaid beneficiaries with that of the uninsured and the privately insured to measure the program's effect on access to care.


Data include the 1987 National Medical Expenditure Survey and the Survey of Income and Program Participation for 1984-1988.


We predict annual use of ambulatory care and inpatient hospital care for Medicaid beneficiaries receiving AFDC cash assistance and compare it to what their use would be if uninsured or if covered by private insurance. Comparisons are based on multivariate models of health care use that control for demographic and economic characteristics and for health status. Our model distinguishes among Medicaid beneficiaries on the basis of eligibility to account for the poor health of beneficiaries in some eligibility groups.


AFDC Medicaid beneficiaries use considerably more ambulatory care and inpatient care than they would if they remained uninsured. Use among the AFDC Medicaid population is about the same as use among otherwise similar, privately insured persons. Use rates differ substantially among different Medicaid beneficiary groups, supporting the expectation that some beneficiary groups are in poor health.


Although Medicaid has increased access to health care services for beneficiaries to rates now comparable to those for the privately insured population, because of lower cost sharing in Medicaid we would expect higher service use than we are finding. This suggests possible barriers to Medicaid patients in receiving the care they demand. Enrollment of less healthy individuals into some Medicaid beneficiary groups suggests that pooled purchasing arrangements that include Medicaid populations must be designed to ensure adequate access for the at-risk populations and, at the same time, to ensure that private employers do not opt out because of high community-rated premiums.

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