OK, this is a paper only for serious healthcare policy-wonks, but you can catch a nice summary podcast of it on NPR’s Planet Money show as well.
In 2008, Oregon didn’t have enough money to give all Medicaid applicants Medicaid, so they had a lottery. This divided up a nice random sample of people who got what is essentially national healthcare, and people who did not. The paper talk about the differences in those two groups and reaches two very clear and well-documented conclusions.
First, everybody on Medicaid got a *lot* healthier, both physically and mentally. There was less stress, less days missed from work, better self-reporting of happiness, and a whole lot of other measures. And the results were not just a percent or two — People reported being 30, 40, and 50% better when on Medicaid compared to people from the same group who didn’t get picked in the lottery.
Second, it costs money, with the Medicaid recipients spending about $790 per year more on healthcare than non-recipients. Because the study only looks at the results from the first year, it is still unclear whether long-term health costs will go down due to better preventative medicine or when the medical issues that have not been dealt with in the past are fixed, but it is clear that providing for additional healthcare requires some additional resources.
But how much? According to here, there are 50.7 million Americans without health insurance right now, or about 16% of the population. At $800 (I’ll round up…), that means it would cost $40.5 Billion per year to give full Medicaid benefits to everyone. That’s a lot of money. A lot. But it’s still only one third (Yes, 33%.) of what it is costing us to stay in Afghanistan in 2012 alone.
Now do a quick cost-benefit analysis. On one hand you get 50.7 million Americans with full national healthcare, feeling 30, 40, and 50% better about their quality of life, lowered stress, and ability to participate in our economy with fewer sick days and less personal distractions. Many of those are children who will be better able to concentrate at school and benefit in all sorts of ways from a healthier childhood. On the other hand we are spending three times as much money to combat an estimated 25,000 (Yep, that’s all there are by most estimates.) Taliban in Afghanistan. Which do you think is benefiting the American people more? Which one do you think enhances our security more? Which one do you think will lead to a stronger future America?