Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

June 8, 2013

Fact Check: Distortions abound in Medicaid battle

Conservative critics of the Affordable Care Act are misrepresenting a study examining the health benefits of expanding Medicaid to cover more low-income people.

In Arizona, a group calling itself American Commitment has launched a series of 30-second Web ads claiming that “a recent study shows that Medicaid doesn’t even improve physical health.” But that’s a distortion. The study, released May 1 and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, actually found several positive benefits. And it measured only three health indicators over a two-year period.

American Commitment first launched Web ads on May 10 targeting five Arizona state Republican senators - Adam Driggs, Bob Worsley, John McComish, Steve Pierce and Rich Crandall - urging them to reject Gov. Jan Brewer’s proposal to expand the state’s Medicaid rolls with the help of federal dollars provided by President Obama’s health care law.

After the Senate, with the support of all five of those lawmakers, approved the Medicaid expansion as part of a 2014 budget bill on May 16, American Commitment targeted state House members with ads telling viewers to call Rep. Tom Forese and tell him to “fight the Obamacare Medicaid expansion.”

The ads display a partial quote that distorts what the New England Journal of Medicine report says. The text on the screen says, “Medicaid coverage generated NO significant improvements in measured physical health.” But that cuts out the stipulation that no improvements were found in the first two years, and the fact that the study did find some benefits.

The full quote is below, with the part used in the video in boldface.

NEJM Study: This randomized, controlled study showed that Medicaid coverage generated no significant improvements in measured physical health outcomes in the first 2 years, but it did increase use of health care services, raise rates of diabetes detection and management, lower rates of depression, and reduce financial strain.

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