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This just in: providing the poor with medical insurance has a positive impact!
This isn’t news, exactly, but the argument for insuring low-income people has gotten a big boost from a groundbreaking new study in Oregon. This is good news for advocates of affordable health insurance, especially at a time when many are fighting state efforts to trim health care services for the poor.
As The New York Times reports, the study became possible because of an unusual situation in Oregon:
In 2008, the state wanted to expand its Medicaid program to include more uninsured people but could afford to add only 10,000 to its rolls. Yet nearly 90,000 applied. Oregon decided to select the 10,000 by lottery.
Economists were electrified. Here was their chance to compare those who got insurance with those who were randomly assigned to go without it. No one had ever done anything like that before, in part because it would be considered unethical to devise a study that would explicitly deny some people coverage while giving it to others.
But this situation was perfect for assessing the impact of Medicaid, said Katherine Baicker, professor of health economics at the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Baicker and Amy Finkelstein, professor of economics at M.I.T., are the principal investigators for the study.