Medicaid and the Primaries

By Emma Sandoe

The candidates have said little about health care over the 2016 campaign season. But the debates over Medicaid expansion continue to loom large over the primary elections as the politics within states are put on display. In all of the states that are showcasing early primaries, the state legislatures are actively debating Medicaid policy.


Iowa was the second state to expand Medicaid using the 1115 waiver authority. Since the state expanded coverage about 116,000 Iowans have gained Medicaid coverage through expansion or through the other Medicaid eligibility programs that the state offers.

Separate from the conversation about expansion the governor has proposed a controversial change to move all of the Medicaid beneficiaries onto private health insurance plans paid for by Medicaid. This ambitious plan required additional complexities such as setting up provider networks and informing beneficiaries of the change. The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently asked the state to delay the implementation date. In other states, the private plans are phased in by population group (pregnant women, children, people with disabilities, etc) and often people with disabilities are excluded. Private insurers are often not equipped to provide services to high need individuals and the payment system incentivizes these high utilizers to be denied care Read More

High Deductibles and Consumer-Based Health Care

By Zack Buck

Last week, the New York Times highlighted a recent study by Zarek C. Brot-Goldberg, et al., with fascinating implications for cost control within American health care. The paper, entitled, What Does A Deductible Do? The Impact of Cost-Sharing on Health Prices, Quantities, and Spending Dynamics, and posted by the National Bureau of Economic Research, shares that while deductibles do cause patients to use less health care, the type of health care that patients cut represents both high-quality, high-value care as well as low-value, wasteful care.

The study tracks the results of an insurance switch by a large employer—from a plan that provided free health care to a high deductible plan for its employees—and noted that the switch reduced overall spending by about 12 percent. However, while spending dropped, beneficiaries were cutting the wrong type of health care. The authors concluded that there was “no evidence of consumers learning to price shop after two years in high-deductible coverage,” finding that the beneficiaries “reduced low-value medical services and medically important ones at about the same rate, raising questions about their long-term health.” According to the authors, “90 percent of all spending reductions occur[red] in months that began under the deductible.”

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