Medicaid plays an important role in the treatment of chronic disease in the United States. One in five Americans gets their health care coverage through Medicaid.

 Let us take a look, by the numbers, at how Medicaid plays a role in three of the most prevalent chronic diseases.


Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. 34.2 million US adults have diabetes, and 1 in 5 of them do not know they have it.

  • In the last 20 years, the number of adults diagnosed with diabetes has more than doubled.
  • Medicaid covered 15% of all individuals with diagnosed diabetes in 2003.
  • Approximately one in ten adult Medicaid enrollees has been diagnosed with diabetes.
  • Among those diabetes patients covered by Medicaid, 97% reported that they had a usual source of care, versus less than four out of five of the uninsured.
  • Over 20 percent of uninsured adults with diabetes reported that they had not had a check-up in the past two years.
  • The uninsured with diabetes were more likely than Medicaid beneficiaries with these conditions to be unable to get necessary medical care (20% versus 7%).

Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular diseases (CVD), including heart disease and stroke, are the leading cause of death in the United States.

  • 28% of adults with Medicaid coverage have a history of CVD.
  • Treatment for cardiovascular-related conditions accounts for one out of every six dollars spent on health care in the U.S., more than any other illness.
  • Medicaid programs can have a positive impact on CVD. According to a report published by the National Institutes of Health, coverage of tobacco cessation services in the Massachusetts Medicaid program led to a 46% reduction in hospitalizations for heart attacks and a 49% decrease in hospitalizations for other acute heart disease diagnoses among users of the benefit. Additionally, every $1 in program costs was associated with $3.12 in medical savings for cardiovascular conditions alone, for a $2.12 return on investment to the Medicaid program for every dollar spent.

Respiratory Disease

Chronic respiratory diseases include lung conditions in which a person’s airways are obstructed, constricted, or damaged, making it difficult to breathe. These conditions include illnesses such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. These diseases are the third leading cause of death in the United States.

  • Chronic respiratory diseases affect millions of Americans—over 17 million adults suffer from asthma, and 12 million have been diagnosed with COPD. People with low incomes are disproportionately impacted by respiratory diseases.
  • Among low-income adults with respiratory disease, Medicaid members benefitted from more provider office visits (10.7 vs. 3.2) and filled more prescriptions (3.5 per month vs. 1.1 per month) than the uninsured.
  • Medicaid beneficiaries with respiratory disease have greater access to care than the uninsured. Among those covered by Medicaid, nine in ten reported that they had a usual source of care, versus around six in ten of the uninsured.


Kaiser Family Foundation –