flickr image By Giant Sloth
Kill is a strong word. It's my word, not the word of a source or researcher. But it's the word that came to mind when I read reports of a Harvard study, reported in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study reported that there was a greater than six percent decline in death rate in states that expanded Medicaid.
Now, the study didn't say kill. It looked at mortality rates. I interviewed one of the authors of the study, Dr. Benjamin Sommers. Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Economics at Harvard School of Public Health, a health policy researcher and a primary care physician.
In our recorded interview, broadcast, August 1, on my Bottom Up Radio Show, on WNJC 1360 AM, Dr. Sommers described the study,
"...we were looking at Medicaid and we were looking at states that chose to expand Medicaid eligibility to low income adults in the early part of the 2000 decade and traditionally Medicaid only covers people in certain groups of eligibility-- disabled adults, low income children, parents and pregnant women. But these states took the step of voluntarily expanding to adults who did not have any children at home and don't have disability. These groups are sometimes called "childless adults," and among these low income "childless adults," most states in the U.S. just don't have any coverage available to them. But these states: Arizona, New York and Maine, took the step in 2001, 2002 to expand coverage to them.
And this is a real important experiment for us to look at because this is pretty similar to what the "Affordable Care Act" will do in 2014; expanding Medicaid to all adults up to 138% of the federal poverty level. And basically what we did then, in a study, is we looked at those three states and we compared to them to four neighboring states that didn't expand their Medicaid programs and we looked at the impact on several different outcomes.
First, we just looked at insurance coverage, then we looked at access to care, health and finally, most importantly, we looked at life expectancy or survival. And what we found was that in the states that expanded their Medicaid program compared to those that didn't, mortality--the death rate among adults 19-64 actually went down by about 6% per year over that period. And this translates into nearly 2800 deaths prevented per year in these states that expanded Medicaid."
This was pretty much a summary of what the New England Journal of Medicine study reported here: Mortality and Access to Care among Adults after State Medicaid Expansions