The Long-Term Health Effects of Early Life Medicaid Coverage

Laura R. Wherry, University of California, Los Angeles
Sarah Miller, University of Michigan

In this study, we evaluate how a rapid expansion of prenatal and child health insurance through the Medicaid program affected the adult health and health care utilization of individuals born between 1979 and 1993 who gained access to coverage in utero and as children. We find that those whose mothers gained eligibility for prenatal coverage under Medicaid have lower rates of obesity as adults, with suggestive evidence of lower body mass indices and lower incidence of chronic illnesses. Using administrative data on hospital discharges, we find that cohorts who gained in utero Medicaid eligibility have fewer hospitalizations related to endocrine, nutritional and metabolic diseases, and immunity disorders as adults, with particularly pronounced reductions in visits associated with diabetes and obesity. We find small effects of public eligibility in other periods of childhood on later-life hospitalizations. Our results indicate that expanding Medicaid prenatal coverage had long-term benefits for health.

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Presented in Session 43: Health Insurance, Health Care Use, and Health