As President Obama's signature legislative accomplishment (read: debacle bigger than stimulus, debt, TARP, kill lists, etc.) continues to founder, expect more misinformed stories such as this one from the AP:
The underdog of government health care programs is emerging as the rare early success story of President Barack Obama's technologically challenged health overhaul.
Often dismissed, Medicaid has signed up 444,000 people in 10 states in the six weeks since open enrollment began, according to Avalere Health, a market analysis firm that compiled data from those states. Twenty-five states are expanding their Medicaid programs, but data for all of them was not available….
This is not good news either for recipients of Medicaid or for taxpayers footing the bill for the program's expansion.
It can't be said enough that there is little evidence that Medicaid improves health outcomes:
There's little evidence that Medicaid coverage improves the health and longevity of beneficiaries. For instance, a major 2010 University of Virginia study found that for patients undergoing major surgical procedures, those on Medicaid were 93 percent more likely to die than patients with private insurance, while the uninsured were just 74 percent more likely to die. Such awful outcomes for Medicaid patients are found in a variety of studies looking at cancer, heart problems, and other maladies.
Evidence from the widely respected Oregon Health Insurance Experiment, which compared the health of Medicaid recipients to a control group, found "that Medicaid coverage generated no significant improvements in measured physical health outcomes in the first 2 years." Such results are broadly consistent with findings that insurance status has little or no impact on longevity. In 2009, for instance, Columbia economist Frank Lichtenburg published a study looking at longevity in states between 1991 and 2004 and concluded that "growth in life expectancy was uncorrelated across states with health insurance coverage and education."
If it's not clear that Medicaid helps people get and stay healthy, one thing is for sure: The program, which is already either the single-biggest or second-biggest annual budget item for every state in the country, spends huge amounts of money and that will only increase.
Medicaid has for a long time posted year-over-year spending increases. Between 2000 and 2011 (PDF), the average increase was 6.8 percent and total expenditures on the program came to $432 billion in 2011 (PDF). The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that annual increases will average about 6.4 percent until 2021, when the federal government and states will spend $795 billion on the program.
You got that? "The rare early success story" of Obamacare is that a massively expensive program that doesn't actually accomplish its core objective has jacked up the number of people enrolled in it. The one benefit of Medicaid is that it reduces the likelihood of medically induced bankruptcy for some recipients. There's an easier and more effective way to accomplish that.
So break out the champagne because Medicaid is booming? We really can't afford to do that now and will be even less likely in a few years.