Now in its 52nd year, Medicaid’s success can be measured on many levels. The most obvious is human: More than 74 million people in this country have access to health care because of the public health insurance program. But we sometimes overlook other significant benefits we as a nation derive from Medicaid: Bringing care to so many individuals — including children, their parents and our growing sector of senior citizens — benefits the United States on a vast social and economic scale. It promotes primary care and wellness, meaning ailments can be identified earlier and treated more easily and efficiently, or even avoided altogether. It eases one of the major stress points for families by ensuring that kids and their Moms and Dads will receive care when they need it. It supports safety-net providers, especially those in small towns or inner-cities where greater proportions of the local populations depend on Medicaid. It even aids productivity in certain businesses because low-wage workers with regular access to health care on average miss fewer days of work than those without ready access.

Here are just 11 of the vast number of ways that Medicaid works for Americans and for America culled from a wide range of private and public sources:

  1. 74 million people are enrolled in Medicaid, representing almost one in five Americans.
  2. Nearly 36 million individuals were enrolled in the Children’s Health Insurance Program or were children enrolled in the Medicaid program in the 48 states that reported child enrollment data to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for April of this year. Children enrolled in the Medicaid program and individuals enrolled in CHIP make up almost 50.4 percent of total Medicaid and CHIP program enrollment.
  3. Nearly two-thirds of Medicaid spending is for the elderly or disabled.
  4. Access to screening and preventive care translates into well-child care, earlier detection of health and developmental problems in children.
  5. Testing and prevention services also leads to earlier diagnosis of chronic conditions such as cancer, diabetes and mental illness in people of all ages. 
  6. Women enrolled in Medicaid have more prenatal care visits than uninsured women.
  7. About two-thirds of Americans living in nursing homes are covered under Medicaid. Many were middle class and spent all of their savings before becoming eligible for Medicaid.
  8. 70% of new Medicaid enrollees who’ve used health services said they would not have previously been able to access or afford their care.
  9. 47% of Medicaid enrollees with mental illness receive behavioral health care, compared with 23% of uninsured individuals with mental illness.
  10. Medicaid funded 25% of all mental health spending in the U.S. in 2014 and 21% of all addiction spending.
  11. One in every 10 veterans rely on Medicaid.

Sources: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Kaiser Family Foundation, the New York Times, Journal of the American Medical Association.