A state-level experiment shines some much-needed light on the longstanding debate over federal aid to low-income families.
Then-Oregon governor Ted Kulongoski speaks to a reporter about his state's economic recovery efforts in 2009. Kulongoski's administration oversaw the Oregon Medicaid experiment. (OregonDOT/Flickr)
Polls have repeatedly shown that when given the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in its constituent pieces, the law's opponents express overwhelming support for its provisions. Greg Sargent parses the latest numbers, finding that even Republicans approve of the promised changes in large numbers. On one issue, though, conservatives remain unmoved: the part where the ACA expands Medicaid coverage to households making less than $30,000 a year.
Under the healthcare law, Medicaid coverage would be extended in 2014 to cover 16 million low-income Americans, on top of the 60 million it currently serves. Ideological arguments aside, what would such an expansion actually accomplish, and what would its consequences be? This is actually harder to determine than you might think; ethics rules prevent researchers from setting up a study in which they give healthcare benefits to one group while deliberately withholding them from another. Conveniently, though, something resembling that experiment has been performed in real life, under ideal conditions. What we've learned is kind of a mixed bag, giving ammunition to both Medicaid's supporters as well as its detractors.