Expanded Medicaid helped these Americans find better jobs

For low-income workers trying to get ahead, expanded Medicaid coverage might be just what the doctor ordered.

A new study from the University of Michigan surveyed participants in the state’s expanded program and said two-thirds of employed enrollees felt they were working better, at least in part, because of their health coverage.

Furthermore, one-third of respondents who recently switched jobs said they were able to land an even better job than the one they had a year earlier.

The study, involving more than 4,000 enrollees, didn’t specify if that meant better pay, better work conditions or elements of employment, some of the major criteria people use to judge job satisfaction. Eighty percent of the participants had incomes below the poverty line when they took the 2016 survey.

At least one-third of the participants reported improvements to their physical, dental and mental health.

Overall, the study concluded that at least one-third of the participants reported improvements to their physical, dental and mental health. The self-reported health improvements were happening earlier than shown in studies of other states, according to a press release on the new Journal of General Internal Medicine study.

The study is the latest to add to the mix of research looking at expanded Medicaid coverage and the job market. For example, one study said expansion had “no significant impact” on state employment rates while the estimates of another study on states’ Medicaid expansion “suggested that the expansions increased work effort, although not significantly.”

The Affordable Care Act broadened Medicaid coverage, but individual states have to decide if they’ll adopt the Medicaid expansion in their own states. Currently, 36 states and the District of Columbia have approved the Medicaid expansion, though four haven’t yet implemented it.

Right-leaning expansion opponents have raised concerns over costs, though expansion supporters challenge the claim.

The Affordable Care Act broadened Medicaid coverage, but individual states have to decide if they will adopt the Medicaid expansion.

Michigan’s Medicaid expansion happened in 2014 and more than 650,000 state residents are covered in the program.

In 2016, 22% of Michigan’s children and adults were covered by Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Only eight states had higher coverage percentages that year.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration said states could put work requirements in place for Medicaid recipients. Arkansas was the first state to make expansion enrollees show they’re working while Michigan lawmakers are proposing to do the same.

Almost 49% of the participants were working, while about 28% were unemployed and another 11% were unable to work. Almost 55% said the coverage helped them look for a job.

“Proponents of work requirements have stated they are looking for a positive impact on society by encouraging people to work or contribute to society in other ways,” said lead author Dr. Renuka Tipirneni, a physician-investigator at University of Michigan’s Division of General Medicine Division.

“What we’re seeing from our data is that this new insurance coverage itself is having positive effects on enrollees’ health and work,” she said.

A 2016 study from the Ohio Department of Medicaid looked into many consequences of expansion there; one finding there said expansion “helped enrollees without jobs to seek employment.”

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