Study: Medicaid expansion could help prevent health declines among the poor in the greater Chattanooga region

Nurse measuring blood pressure medical tile. / Getty Images/iStockphoto/vinhdav

The health of low-income people declined more in Southern states that didn't expand Medicaid than in those Southern states that did, with Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama ranking worst, respectively, according to a new study.

The study, published this month in the journal Health Affairs, found that in Southern states that expanded their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act, adults experienced lower rates of decline in both physical and mental health.

"The effect is sizable and would amount to the worst-ranked Southern state [Tennessee] rising about halfway up the rankings in state population health if it expanded Medicaid," Dr. Michael McWilliams, senior author and Harvard Medical School Professor of Health Care Policy, said in a news release. "Unlike many other studies, we were able to focus on some of the most vulnerable populations who stand to gain the most from insurance coverage."