Does expanding health insurance improve health?

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An article in today’s Wall Street Journal addresses a question that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Health reform debates too often miss the real point – we want to improve the health of people. A plastic health insurance card does not guarantee access to care, much less improved health – ask anyone on Medicaid/HUSKY/Charter Oak. WSJ asks the question of John Auerbach, Commissioner of Public Health in Mass the question. He points to three indicators that health is improving – all process measures – to argue that MA’s health reforms are improving more than the uninsured rate. First, the rate of adults smoking is down 8%, the biggest drop in ten years. The drop is primarily due to the expansion of Medicaid, which covers smoking cessation patches and counseling. (Note: CT’s Medicaid program is one of the few in the US that doesn’t cover smoking cessation treatments.) Second, there was an increase in the number of people getting age-appropriate colonoscopies. And third, more people in MA are getting flu shots.
Ellen Andrews