The study also showed that Medicaid improved mental health substantially. Specifically, coverage lowered rates of depression by 30 percent. And we know that mental health is significantly intertwined with physical health. In the wake of the Newtown tragedy and calls on all sides of the political spectrum to improve mental health, it's hard to see how this result can just be ignored by opponents of the health care law.
The lesson of the Reinhart and Rogoff study, and now the Oregon study, is that academic work will be politicized. Knowing that, researchers should take great care in what they release. Unlike Reinhart and Rogoff, the Oregon researchers didn't make a mistake in their Excel spreadsheet, but they did release results that were inconclusive.
Like Reinhart and Rogoff, the Oregon researchers aren't responsible for policy decisions – those who misrepresent studies and hype them to support pre-existing beliefs are. Unfortunately, it's the misrepresentation that gets coverage, not the study's limitations.
In follow-up studies, the Oregon researchers may be able to release conclusive results about Medicaid's effects on physical health. But in the meantime, we do know that Medicaid improves quality of life substantially.