Dr. Benjamin D. Sommers of Harvard's School of Public Health and colleagues analyzed data from three states that had expanded their Medicaid programs in the last decade to cover a population not normally eligible for Medicaid -- low-income adults without children or disabilities -- with states with no expansion.
Mortality rates in New York, Maine and Arizona were compared five years before and after the Medicaid expansions, and also compared with those of four neighboring states -- Pennsylvania, Nevada, New Mexico and New Hampshire -- that had no Medicaid expansion.
The study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, found the number of deaths for those newly covered under Medicaid ages 20-64, decreased by about 1,500 for all three states per year, while the death rates in the four comparison states increased, The New York Times reported.
The data did not describe specific causes of death, but the study found declines in two broad categories of deaths -- those caused by disease and those caused by accidents, injuries and drug abuse -- suggesting even accident victims might get or seek more medical care if they were insured, the researchers said.
States are currently deciding whether to expand Medicaid in a similar fashion by 2014 under the Affordable Care Act.