Studying whether Medicaid coverage makes an individual healthier is a difficult task. Designing such an experiment would be challenging: There’s likely no ethics board in the country that would approve a study that gives health coverage to some individuals, denies it to others and sees which group does better.
But Medicaid does, sometimes, allow for natural experiments. And a team of researchers in Ohio have found an interesting way to explore how Medicaid coverage impacts on the prognosis of a patient diagnosed with cancer. Their study, to be published next month in the journal Cancer, finds that while Medicaid coverage prior to a cancer diagnosis does correlate with a better outcome than no coverage at all, patients in the entitlement program have worse survival rates than Americans with private insurance, or no insurance at all.