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Lanhee J Chen

Best Argument Yet Against Medicaid Expansion

 A new academic paper suggests what may be the strongest argument yet against the expansion: that it will keep many beneficiaries in poverty because it creates strong disincentives for work.
This won't hurt the economy a bit, promise. Photographer: Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images
This won't hurt the economy a bit, promise. Photographer: Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images

Opponents of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion have traditionally argued that it will significantly burden state budgets and provide people with substandard health coverage. A new academic paper suggests what may be the strongest argument yet against the expansion: that it will keep many beneficiaries in poverty because it creates strong disincentives for work.

Researchers Laura Dague, Thomas DeLeire, and Lindsay Leininger argue in a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper that Medicaid enrollment will lead to significant and lasting reductions in employment among childless adults. The paper is noteworthy primarily because it focuses its analysis on low-income adults without children -- -- a group that previously was largely ineligible for Medicaid but will get access because of Obamacare’s expansion of the program. It reinforces a July 2013 paper, which found that the loss of public health insurance stimulated job search activities, employment growth and the acquisition of other health insurance coverage among childless adults.