Treat or Eat? The Impact of Medicaid Insurance on Food Insecurity Among Low-Income American Families

Duy Do , University of Pennsylvania

Research on Medicaid typically focuses on insurance coverage, utilization, and expenditures. The possibility that Medicaid had positive consequences beyond medicine – reverberating into other aspects of daily life – has not been sufficiently explored. Using the timing and geographical variation of the Medicaid expansion in 2014, I provide the causal impact of gaining Medicaid on adult and child food insecurity. As a result of the expansion, families in expanded states experienced an increase of 11.2 percentage points (p<0.001) in Medicaid coverage, compared to those in non-expanded states. Such increase in coverage translates to a decline of 2.07 percentage point (p<0.01) and 7.9 percentage points (p<0.05) in food insecurity for adults and children, respectively. The effect on food insecurity is due to families increasing their food expenditure as a result of declining medical spending, not because they are encouraged to apply for food assistance programs when signing up for Medicaid.

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 Presented in Session 239. Flash Session: Social Policy and Child Well-being