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Medicaid Expansion Helps Address Health Disparities

Extending health coverage to more low-income people is an important way to reduce health disparities between people of color and others in the United States. An analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that the Medicaid expansion particularly affects people of color, given that they are more likely to lack health insurance and also to have low incomes. In states that have not adopted the Medicaid expansion, poor adults with incomes below the federal poverty level fall into a coverage gap because they remain ineligible for Medicaid but earn too little to qualify for premium tax credits for qualified health plans in the Marketplace. As a result, they are likely to remain uninsured. More than one-quarter of uninsured adults who would be eligible for Medicaid if all states expanded are people of color. The Kaiser analysis also found that the coverage gap in states not expanding Medicaid disproportionately impacts poor, uninsured African-American adults since they are likely to reside in the southern region of the country, where most states have not implemented the Medicaid expansion.

Graph showing 28% of uninsured adults who would be eligible for Medicaid if all states expanded are people of color.

Increasing health coverage can help narrow health disparities. For example, according to a paper by the National Health Law Program (NHELP), African-American men have a higher incidence of prostate cancer and a higher death rate from prostate cancer than white men. The ability to gain Medicaid coverage can mean a greater likelihood that cancer will be detected and treated early. NHELP also points out that the Medicaid expansion can help women of color gain access to necessary preventive services, such as screening for diabetes, obesity and depression. These services are available without cost sharing, which can be a major barrier for low-income people.

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