My guest today is Harvard Medical School researcher and third year medical student, Samuel L. Dickman. Welcome to OpEdNews, Sam.
SD: Thank you, Joan.
JB: You were involved in a study by researchers at Harvard Medical School and the City University of New York [CUNY] which was just released. What can you tell us about it?
SD: We wanted to look at the health and financial impacts of persistently high uninsurance in the US. Most people know that the Affordable Care Act of 2010 -- also known as ObamaCare -- was designed to decrease the number of uninsured, and it was going to do that in two ways: first, by setting up insurance "exchanges" where people could comparison shop for private health plans and get subsidies to help pay the premiums (as long as their incomes were within a certain bracket.) The other way was expanding Medicaid eligibility, which previously covered a very limited subset of the poor. The ACA said that states would have to expand Medicaid up to 138% of the federal poverty level, and that expansion would be paid for almost entirely by the federal government.
When the Supreme Court upheld most of the Affordable Care Act in June 2012, it ruled that states could decide to reject the Medicaid expansion and the federal funds that come with it. As of the end of 2013, 25 states had decided not to expand Medicaid. That decision will leave millions of Americans uninsured -- people who would have gotten insurance if their state hadn't rejected the Medicaid expansion.
JB: That's half of our states! What does it mean exactly? What are the numbers behind the ramifications of that decision?
SD: We studied the health effects for people who would have gotten insurance in those 25 states. We estimated how many people were likely to stay uninsured, and we found that almost 8 million people would have gotten insurance if those states hadn't opted out. Then we analyzed data on the benefits of health insurance from previous studies, and applied those figures to the millions who will remain uninsured.
What we found is that these states' resistance to expanding Medicaid will have serious health and financial consequences. Between 7,115 and 17,104 people will die per year because of some states' resistance to expanding Medicaid for the poor. More than 700,000 more people will suffer depression, and 422,553 thousand diabetics won't be able to get treatment.