In 2014, the Affordable Care Act expanded Medicaid eligibility, offering coverage to millions of people who may have gone without insurance otherwise. It’s undeniable that the healthcare law has improved the lives of low-income individuals and families across the country. In a new study published in Health Affairs indicates that a particular group of people benefited greatly from the Medicaid expansion: those with diabetes.
The study examined prescription data in 30 states that expanded Medicaid coverage. Researchers found a 40 percent increase in the number of diabetes medications (like insulin and metformin) filled in these states. States that were not affected by the Medicaid expansion did not have an increase in diabetes medication prescriptions at all.
What this study tells us is that there are people in the United States going without diabetes medication because they are underinsured or lack health insurance entirely. When a person with diabetes lives without insurance, they may be forced to take matters into their own hands and take less of their medication, skip doses, or switch to cheaper drugs. These moves can be very dangerous and sometimes fatal if not directed by a doctor.
People who are underinsured or live with no insurance may have to seek help through charities or drug manufacturer assistance programs.
Medicaid expansion across the states
As of 2018, 33 states have opted to expand their Medicaid eligibility requirements, including Washington, D.C.
An additional 3.9 million people gained health insurance in California thanks to the state’s Medicaid expansion. This on top of the 13.5 million people already enrolled in the program (called Medi-Cal), or about 10 percent of the total population.
There were 18 states that chose not to expand the eligibility requirements of their Medicaid programs, including states like Kansas and Mississippi. In these states, an additional 2 million people were left uninsured due to their states opting out of the Medicaid expansion.
Health experts weigh in
Currently, about 114 million people in the United States have diabetes or prediabetes. The chronic illness is one of the most pressing health issues facing the country. An analysis performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that treating diabetes early can save $6,394 in overall healthcare costs.
Michael Bush, an endocrinologist in Beverly Hills, California said, “This is clearly a disease where if you take care of it now, you can prevent complications that occur later.”