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There’s one big thing that can help poor kids get jobs 50 years later

It has been more than five decades since President Johnson created Medicaid, but researchers are only now beginning to understand how consequential the program has been for the lives of the American poor.

That is because Medicaid's effects on the children who benefited have persisted long into adulthood. Fifty years after Medicaid became available, children who received health insurance through the program are healthier, living longer and working more, according to a working paper published this week by the nonpartisan National Bureau of Economic Research.

The federal government has now recouped much of the original cost of insuring those poor families, the research found, because their children have grown up to pay more in taxes and rely less on welfare and other public benefits. As an investment, Medicaid has returned at least 2 percent a year so far, according to the author of the paper, Vanderbilt University economist Andrew Goodman-Bacon -- excluding the benefits to patients themselves and focusing only on Uncle Sam's bottom line.


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