Did Medicaid slow declines in access to health care during the great recession?

Joseph A. Benitez, Victoria E. Perez, Jie Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Objective: We examine whether broadened access to Medicaid helped insulate households from declines in health coverage and health care access linked to the 2007-2009 Great Recession. Data Source: 2004-2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). Study Design: Flexible difference-in-difference regressions were used to compare the impact of county-level unemployment on health care access in states with generous Medicaid eligibility guidelines versus states with restrictive guidelines. Data Collection/Extraction Methods: Nonelderly adults (aged 19-64) in the BRFSS were linked to county unemployment rates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Local Area Unemployment Statistics Program. We created a Medicaid generosity index by simulating the share of a nationally representative sample of adults that would be eligible for Medicaid under each state's 2007 Medicaid guidelines using data from the 2007 Current Population Survey's Annual Social and Economic Supplement. Principal Findings: A percentage point (PPT) increase in the county unemployment rate was associated with a 1.3 PPT (95% CI: 0.9-1.6, P <.01) increase in the likelihood of being uninsured and a 0.86 PPT (95% CI: 0.6-1.1, P <.01) increase in unmet medical needs due to cost in states with restrictive Medicaid eligibility guidelines. Conversely, a one PPT increase in unemployment was associated with only a 0.64 PPT (P <.01) increase in uninsurance among states with the most generous eligibility guidelines. Among states in the fourth quartile of generosity (ie, most generous), rises in county-level unemployment were associated with a 0.68 PPT (P <.10) increase in unmet medical needs due to cost—a 21% smaller decrease relative to states with the most restrictive Medicaid eligibility guidelines. Conclusions: Increased access to Medicaid during the Great Recession mitigated the effects of increased unemployment on the rate of unmet medical need, particularly for adults with limited income.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)655-667
Number of pages13
JournalHealth Services Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. Health Services Research published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Health Research and Educational Trust.


  • Great Recession
  • Medicaid
  • determinants of health
  • health care access
  • state health policy
  • unemployment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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