Can Health Care Investments Stimulate the Economy?

Document Type


Publication Date



Health Affairs Blog


State Health Reform; ARRA; Safety Net; Underserved Populations; Government Funding; Low-Income Populations; Community Health Centers


As the nation struggles to climb out of the Great Recession, many people also want us to improve access to health care. But some believe it is inappropriate to spend more for health care while budget deficits are large and the economy is still weak. Is the promotion of health care access inconsistent with economic growth? While policies like expansions of community health centers or Medicaid fiscal relief can strengthen health care access by creating more primary care and bolstering insurance coverage, do they also stimulate economic growth and the creation of jobs? We show that there is substantial, if not complete, evidence that federal investments in health care can stimulate economic growth, and that recent efforts funded under ARRA were well targeted to areas in greater distress. From a financial perspective, the federal investments help preserve or increase business activity and jobs, particularly in communities with high unemployment. From a health perspective, they improve access to health care—through Medicaid coverage or access to primary care services—in low-income communities that have been hurt by the recession.


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