This is a good thing, right?
Back to the study. Essentially researchers found that when you factor in more covered lives, 19.6 deaths per 100,000 adults or a 6.1% reduction in mortality occurs. Not surprising, the reduction in mortality was the most significant among older adults, nonwhites, and residents of poorer counties.
Consider these findings for a second. When we offer help, insurance in this case, to those who often have some of the most substantial healthcare needs, they get better (or live longer). We can literally save lives by creating a way for people to have the option to receive healthcare. Since we know that very few people could afford healthcare on their own, expanding Medicaid is one way to solve a major problem.
Unfortunately we know the expansion is not happening in some states due to politics. In fact, the GOP has even come out saying that covering the uninsured is no longer a “top priority” for them.
From the New York Times:
“Medicaid expansions are controversial, not just because they cost states money, but also because some critics, primarily conservatives, contend the program does not improve the health of recipients and may even be associated with worse health.”
But as the Harvard study shows, this is not true.
When we examine one state that has not only expanded its Medicaid coverage but also required that all those living in it purchase healthcare, we can learn a little bit more about why insurance matters.
Only two percent of Massachusetts residents are not covered by some form of health insurance (consider that the national average is 16 percent uninsured). The Massachusetts Governor at the time, Mitt Romney, framed what they did in the state this way:
“We said, look, if people can afford to buy it, either buy the insurance or pay your own way. Don’t be free riders and pass on the cost of your health care to everybody else.”
The Governor recognized that insurance played a very important role in healthcare, and that some could afford it and others could not. Therefore, the Massachusetts experiment was started and in terms of coverage, has been highly successful.
And recall that someone, somewhere is paying for those who are uninsured.
The results from all these healthcare experiments is essentially, cover more lives, save more lives, and ultimately start to decrease healthcare cost. When studies show we can save lives by expanding Medicaid and therefore access to healthcare, we should listen; these findings are significant.
We must understand that Medicaid is not just a political tool, but actually a resource that can literally save lives.
As the Harvard study concludes: “State Medicaid expansions to cover low-income adults were significantly associated with reduced mortality as well as improved coverage, access to care, and self-reported health.”
But with most things in healthcare, we have a choice. Why don’t we choose to save lives?