Obamacare critics can hate on President Obama’s health care plan all they want – but a new study suggests that if all goes to plan, thousands of lives a year could be saved.
The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine this month, compares mortality rates for adults in Massachusetts between the ages of 20 and 64 both before and after then-Gov. Mitt Romney signed the state’s health reform, and found it decreased that rate 2.9%, equivalent to about 8.2 deaths for every 100,000 adults. Deaths from so-called “amenable” causes fell by 4.5%.
Adults in that age range saw the most significant changes in health insurance coverage under the law compared to senior citizens, who already enjoy low uninsured rates nationwide thanks to Medicaid.
One of the many tools within the Affordable Care Act (ACA) designed to help drop the uninsured rate was the much-maligned insurance mandate. The model for that mandate from the Massachusetts health reform often referred to as Romneycare, and it helped to reduce the uninsured rate in Massachusetts to the point that the state now has the smallest percentage of uninsured residents than any other state in the union – by far. In Massachusetts only 4.9% percent lack health insurance, according to recent estimates from Gallup.
The national uninsured rate has been dropping in recent months, thanks in part to the Affordable Care Act’s recent insurance exchange open enrollment, and now sits at 13.4%, according to Gallup data released this week.
The study provides fodder for those who harped upon an Oregon study from 2013 that found no significant improvement in overall health indicators, like diabetes and blood pressure, among those who gained health insurance through Medicaid. Many ACA critics used that study as an argument against Medicaid expansion.
Beyond the health insurance mandate, another major provision within the ACA designed to help reduce the uninsured rate is the Medicaid expansion. As of now, 26 states and the District of Columbia have moved to expand Medicaid, but lawmakers and governors in 24 states have refused so far, while debate continues over the issue in a handful of states. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the states who have refused Medicaid expansion have prevented nearly 5 million Americans from enrolling in Medicaid and gaining access to health coverage.