BOSTON (CBS) – A new study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that expanding Medicaid to low-income adults leads to widespread gains in coverage, access to care, improved health, and reduced mortality.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Diane Stern spoke to the study’s lead author, Benjamin Sommers:

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In the past, several states expanded Medicaid from its traditional coverage of low-income persons to include “childless adults,” who are poor adults without any children living at the home. They are the population that is most directly targeted by the Affordable Care Act.

Currently, Medicaid covers 60 million people, and the Affordable Care Act will extend eligibility to millions more. The Supreme Court’s decision gives states the option of choosing whether or not to expand coverage, because of budget pressures some states are considering cutbacks, not expansion.

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This study is the first one of its kinds and looks specifically at the effect of the recent state Medicaid expansions on mortality among low-income adults.

“The recent Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act ruled that states could decide whether or not they wanted to participate in the health care law’s Medicaid expansion. Our study provides evidence suggesting that expanding Medicaid has a major positive effect on people’s health,” said Sommers, who is an assistant professor of health policy and economics at Harvard School of Public Health.

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The study is set appear in the Sept. 13 print issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.