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Money Culture

Medicaid for Children Pays Off Later

Medicaid health insurance, which covers a third of the nation’s children, has a payoff down the line: fewer adults on disability.

A well-known benefit of Medicaid is that low-income children covered under the insurance program turn into healthier adults. But a recent study found that these health improvements translate to another positive outcome for adults: fewer applications to Social Security’s Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, which provides monthly cash benefits to people who are not healthy enough to work.

The study, conducted by researchers at Middlebury College and Vanderbilt University, used U.S. Census data to follow 63,000 individuals between ages 25 and 64 who were exposed to Medicaid for various lengths of time during childhood, depending on when they were born and when their state first implemented the program, which Congress passed in 1965.

First, the study confirmed the health benefits of Medicaid coverage for children: the adults in the study could more easily pass a few basic tests of health and physical stamina, such as lifting 10 pounds, standing for an hour, and walking up 10 stairs.

And better health did, indeed, reduce their applications for SSDI – and ultimately, the number of adults receiving disability benefits. In fact, the longer they would have been insured under Medicaid as children, the less likely they were to apply for disability, said the study, which was for NBER’s Retirement and Disability Research Center.

This is a clear example of how early intervention can reduce government spending down the road.

To read the entire study, authored by Tanya Byker and Andrew Goodman-Bacon, see “The Long-Run Effects of Medicaid on Disability Applications.”

The research reported herein was performed pursuant to a grant from the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) funded as part of the Retirement Research Consortium. The opinions and conclusions expressed are solely those of the author(s) and do not represent the opinions or policy of SSA or any agency of the federal government. Neither the United States Government nor any agency thereof, nor any of their employees, makes any warranty, express or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of the contents of this report. Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise does not necessarily constitute or imply endorsement, recommendation or favoring by the United States Government or any agency thereof.

5 Responses to Medicaid for Children Pays Off Later

  1. Health insurance for all should be a basic human right, like adequate food and shelter. In 2018, 8.5% of Americans, 27.5 million people, did not have health insurance at any point in the year. Whether it is Medicare for All, expansion of the Affordable Care Act or some other plan, we as a people must do better. Your health should not depend on your wealth or luck.

  2. Angela Mahany says:

    I agree with Dr Hoffer. This marvelous country should be able to tax its base enough to afford health care for all our citizens.

    We have politicians who advocate for this health net, but none of them have the honesty to spell out where the money to fund this care will come from. Cut the military? But do not close the bases in my state. They support our economy. Cut money from environmental programs? But don’t allow more drilling anywhere. Certainly not in pristine Alaska or off my coast!

    Cut foreign aid? Help our people first. But then who will help those children and their parents not lucky enough to be inside our boarders or rich enough to escape their impoverished nations. Even with our generous gifts to organizations that help these people, they do not have adequate food and shelter. A basic human right. Right?

  3. Mike Mas. says:

    Politically, I consider myself independent, neither particularly liberal nor conservative. As someone who relocated from Canada, home of socialized medicine, I can attest that when you go to the ER you get a ticket…then go home and call in every few hours to see if you’re getting close to being seen. Not great.

    Somehow, it has become the job of the American government to provide school lunches (at least here in Philadelphia, PA) day care, kiddy care, and all sorts of health coverage.

    I guess the days of striving to improve yourself to get a better job with better benefits are gone, as all will be provided for you regardless.

    The high cost of medical care in the U.S. is related to malpractice insurance premiums, which is directly related to the insane amounts of settlements in malpractice suits.

  4. Tanee Chiang says:

    Any healthcare is great for the people. I didn’t have enough healthcare growing up. With over population, diseases spread more rapidly. And with new modern building (no windows and only air circulating through buildings), people can get a variety of diseases (such as sick building disease) It is easier to get sick these days, this is only my opinion and experience as I have aged.

  5. Swati Arora says:

    Healthcare is a part of life we all consider to be something we are entitled to – it is our right to have access to healthcare whenever we need it. But unfortunately, it has become some kind of a privilege for a person with enough income to pay the premium in the first place.