Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Editorials

Medicaid's benefits not easily dismissed

A new study about the effectiveness of Medicaid in Oregon is being cited by opponents of expanding Medicaid in Florida and elsewhere, who complain the government health insurance program for the poor is a waste of taxpayer money. In fact, the results are more nuanced and suggest there are positive benefits as well as areas that need more study. The findings that Medicaid recipients enjoy lower rates of depression, increases in preventive health care and gains in financial stability should not be so easily dismissed.

The Oregon study, reported in the May 2 online edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, is drawing national attention because it met exacting standards for social science research and seemed to suggest that people with Medicaid are no physically healthier than people without insurance. Oregon used a lottery system to give Medicaid to 10,000 additional poor adults. This allowed researchers to compare 6,300 people who were able to apply for Medicaid with 5,800 who didn't win the lottery.

What the researchers found after two years of study is that improvements for Medicaid patients suffering from diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol were not significantly better compared with the uninsured. If the program doesn't make people healthier, critics ask, why should states add 16 million more people to the rolls?

The answer is twofold: First, the study's conclusions are not as firm as they appear because the sample included relatively few unhealthy participants. Just as with all health insurance, most people with Medicaid are fairly healthy. The researchers acknowledged that the small number of patients with each condition limited their study's ability to detect changes in health. They also noted that depression was "by far" the most prevalent of the four conditions examined and, significantly, it was the only one where improvements among Medicaid patients were found, suggesting that the sample pool affected results.

Second, Medicaid was shown to be valuable in other ways. Depression can affect the ability to get a job and be a responsible parent. Oregon's Medicaid patients saw their rates of depression drop by 30 percent. The Medicaid group was able to get more preventive health care than their uninsured counterparts, the value of which is well documented. And at its core, health insurance is protection that keeps people from facing financial ruin if they become sick or injured. Medicaid, the researchers found, operates the same way, relieving financial strain and worry for people who can least afford an unanticipated medical expense. Catastrophic expenditures for those with Medicaid were nearly eliminated.

Only people with good health insurance seem to make the argument that the poor are better off uninsured than in Medicaid. The best course for Florida remains accepting $51 billion in federal money over the next decade to provide health coverage for 1 million residents. The Oregon study is worth continuing, but the initial results do not alter that conclusion one bit.

Comments
Editorial: Look hard into Tampa Bay and Pinellas CareerSource CEO, and get to the bottom of the numbers and the money

Editorial: Look hard into Tampa Bay and Pinellas CareerSource CEO, and get to the bottom of the numbers and the money

Something is seriously amiss at Tampa Bay’s two CareerSource agencies, which receive millions in federal and state money to match unemployed workers with local employers. First, the agencies appear to be taking credit — and money — for job placements...
Published: 01/22/18

A Chicago Tribune editorial: Shut down this shutdown habit

"Shutting down the government of the United States of America should never ever be a bargaining chip for any issue. Period. It should be to governing as chemical warfare is to real warfare. It should be banned."— Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., addressing ...
Published: 01/22/18
Editorial: Beware of social media targeting kids

Editorial: Beware of social media targeting kids

Ignoring all available evidence that screen time and social media exposure can be harmful to kids, Facebook recently unveiled a new messaging app targeting children under 13. It’s yet another battlefront for parents who have to constantly combat the ...
Published: 01/21/18
Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

The good news on the transportation front is that Tampa Bay’s government and business leaders are working together like never before to connect the region’s largest cities, attractions and employment centers with a more robust mass transit system. Th...
Published: 01/20/18
Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

The smiles, applause and at least one hug belied the grim impetus for a gathering last week at a neighborhood center in Tampa — the Seminole Heights killings.The Tampa Police Department held a ceremony to thank those who helped in the investigation t...
Published: 01/19/18
Updated: 01/21/18
Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

The death last fall of a 20-year-old Florida State University fraternity pledge revealed pervasive dangerous behavior within the school’s Greek system. Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi pledge, died from alcohol poisoning after an off-campus party, and a...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: Confronting racial distrust in St. Petersburg, one conversation at a time

The St. Petersburg Police Department’s heavy presence in Midtown on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the community animosity it stirred have raised a familiar, troubling question: Can St. Petersburg’s racial divisions ever be reconciled?That big ideal ...
Published: 01/19/18
William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

A surge of Democrats seeking local legislative offices and hoping for a "blue wave" in the 2018 election continued last week, led by Bob Buesing filing to run again versus state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa.In addition:• Heather Kenyon Stahl of Tampa has...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: State’s warning shot should get attention of Hillsborough schools

The state Board of Education hopefully sent the message this week with its warning shot about the slow pace of the turnaround at Hillsborough County’s low-performing schools.The board criticized the school system for failing to replace administrators...
Published: 01/18/18
Updated: 01/19/18
Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Published: 01/18/18