Medicaid Expansion Identifies More Diabetics

States that expanded Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act have seen a 23% increase in the number of newly diagnosed diabetes patients.

States that expanded Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have seen a 23% increase in the number of newly diagnosed diabetes patients.

Researchers saw an opportunity to study changes in diabetes diagnoses after 26 states and the District of Columbia expanded Medicaid in January 2014.

Their study, published in Diabetes Care, focused on patients aged 19 to 64 years who underwent laboratory testing through Quest Diagnostics.

The study authors determined there were 215,398 patients with newly diagnosed diabetes across the nation within the first 6 months of 2013, which served as the control period. The study period included 218,890 patients with newly diagnosed diabetes in 2014.

In the District of Columbia and the 26 states that expanded Medicaid, there was a 23% increase in Medicaid-enrolled patients with newly identified diabetes. In contrast, there was a 0.4% increase among the 24 states that did not expand Medicaid.

In the Medicaid expansion states, men had higher percentages of new diagnoses compared with women, and patients aged 50 to 64 years saw higher percentages of new diagnoses compared with those aged 19 to 49 years.

One explanation for the surge in newly identified diabetics could be that the patients are being diagnosed at an earlier stage of the disease, the authors pointed out. Changes in access to health care could contribute to earlier testing, and earlier detection could mean patients experiencing better disease management, the researchers noted.

“This study suggests that in the states that expanded Medicaid under the ACA, an increased number of Medicaid patients with diabetes are being diagnosed and treated earlier,” the study authors concluded. “This could be anticipated to lead to better long-term outcomes.”