Understanding The Relationship Between Medicaid Expansions And Hospital Closures

Health Aff (Millwood). 2018 Jan;37(1):111-120. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2017.0976.


Decisions by states about whether to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have implications for hospitals' financial health. We hypothesized that Medicaid expansion of eligibility for childless adults prevents hospital closures because increased Medicaid coverage for previously uninsured people reduces uncompensated care expenditures and strengthens hospitals' financial position. We tested this hypothesis using data for the period 2008-16 on hospital closures and financial performance. We found that the ACA's Medicaid expansion was associated with improved hospital financial performance and substantially lower likelihoods of closure, especially in rural markets and counties with large numbers of uninsured adults before Medicaid expansion. Future congressional efforts to reform Medicaid policy should consider the strong relationship between Medicaid coverage levels and the financial viability of hospitals. Our results imply that reverting to pre-ACA eligibility levels would lead to particularly large increases in rural hospital closures. Such closures could lead to reduced access to care and a loss of highly skilled jobs, which could have detrimental impacts on local economies.

Keywords: Financing Health Care; Health Reform; Hospitals; Medicaid; Rural Health Care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Economics, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Care Costs*
  • Health Facility Closure / economics
  • Health Facility Closure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Insurance Coverage / economics*
  • Insurance Coverage / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Medicaid / economics*
  • Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act / legislation & jurisprudence
  • United States