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All Medicaid Expansions Are Not Created Equal: The Geography and Targeting of the Affordable Care Act (WP-19-26)

Craig Garthwaite, John Graves, Tal Gross, Zeynal Karaca, Victoria Marone, and Matthew Notowidigdo

The researchers use comprehensive patient-level discharge data to study the effect of Medicaid on the use of hospital services. Their analysis relies on cross-state variation in the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, along with within-state variation across ZIP Codes in exposure to the expansion. They find that the Medicaid expansion increased Medicaid visits and decreased uninsured visits. The net effect is positive for all visits, suggesting that those who gain coverage through Medicaid consume more hospital services than they would if they remained uninsured. The increase in emergency department visits is largely accounted for by “deferrable” medical conditions. Those who gained coverage under the Medicaid expansion appear to be those who had relatively high need for hospital services, suggesting that the expansion was well targeted. Lastly, the researchers find significant heterogeneity across Medicaid-expansion states in the effects of the expansion, with some states experiencing a large increase in total utilization and other states experiencing little change. Increases in hospital utilization were larger in Medicaid-expansion states that had more residents gaining coverage and lower pre-expansion levels of hospital uncompensated care costs.

Craig Garthwaite, Associate Professor of Strategy and IPR Associate, Northwestern University

John Graves, Associate Professor of Health Policy, Vanderbilt University

Tal Gross, Associate Professor, Markets, Public Policy, and Law, Boston University

Zeynal Karaca, Director, Market Analytics and Research, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

Victoria Marone, PhD Candidate, Department of Economics, Northwestern University

Matthew Notowidigdo, Associate Professor of Economics and IPR Fellow, Northwestern University

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