Medicaid coverage, with its lower cost-sharing and unlimited benefits, appears on paper to be far better than what most Americans enjoy.[55] But by almost all measures, Medicaid enrollees fare worse than privately insured patients with similar medical conditions.[56] Indeed, various academic researchers have found that Medicaid enrollees often fare worse than not only patients with private insurance, but also patients with no insurance, even when controlling for a variety of factors, including income, education and health status.[57] For example:

Medicaid patients are almost twice as likely to die after surgery as privately insured patients and about 13 percent more likely to die than the uninsured, according to a University of Virginia study.[*]

Medicaid patients are more likely to be diagnosed with cancers at a less treatable, late stage than both the uninsured and privately insured: They were nearly one-quarter (23 percent) more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer and 45 percent more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage melanoma than the uninsured, according to a study of Florida in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.[†]

Medicaid patients undergoing surgery for colon cancer were three times as likely to die as the privately insured and more than one-fourth more likely to die than the uninsured, according to a study in the journal Cancer[58] (though survival rates for Medicaid patients with late-stage colon cancer were higher than for the uninsured).


[*] Findings controlled for age, income, health status and other variables. Damien J. LaPar et al., “Primary Payer Status Affects Mortality for Major Surgical Operations,” Annals of Surgery vol. 252, no. 3 (2010) http://goo.gl/guLvv (accessed May 20, 2013).

[†] Authors’ calculations based on Richard G. Roetzheim et al., “Effects of Health Insurance and Race on Early Detection of Cancer,” Journal of the National Cancer Institute vol. 91, no. 16 (1999): Table 2 http://goo.gl/qSLGn (accessed May 20, 2013). The study’s findings were controlled for age, income, education, health status and other variables.