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For the Poor, Obamacare Can Reduce Late Rent Payments

A first-of-its kind study suggests that Medicaid expansion under the ACA boosts financial outcomes—and keeps people from losing their homes.
A volunteer in Omaha processes petitions to expand Medicaid for Nebraska, an initiative that voters passed during the 2018 midterm elections.
A volunteer in Omaha processes petitions to expand Medicaid for Nebraska, an initiative that voters passed during the 2018 midterm elections.Nati Harnik/AP

When Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the decision in 2012 to uphold the Affordable Care Act, the court set the stage for a natural experiment in economics. His majority opinion in NFIB v. Sebelius invalidated the part of the law that would have penalized states that refused to participate in the Medicaid expansion, making it optional for states to extend coverage for the most vulnerable Americans. As a result, poor adults in some states would receive health insurance, while poor adults in others would go without.

The court’s carveout made it possible to compare the haves with the have-nots across state lines. A new study does precisely that—and finds that access to subsidized health insurance dramatically boosts financial outcomes. Those who were able to acquire health insurance under Obamacare’s subsidized exchanges were 25 percent less likely to miss paying their rent or mortgage on time.