Massachusetts sees mortality dip in wake of healthcare reform

"Our findings add to a growing body of evidence showing that health insurance makes a positive difference in people's lives," said researcher Benjamin Sommers.
By Brooks Hays  |  May 5, 2014 at 6:32 PM
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BOSTON, May 5 (UPI) -- A few opponents of healthcare reform, and specifically Obamacare, suggested that the legislative changes would bring about "death panels" where the fates of sickly patients would be decided by bureaucrats.

That hasn't been the case -- quite the opposite, in fact, if a new study led by policy experts at the Harvard School of Public Health is to be believed. Researchers from the Ivy League school suggest that less people are actually dying in the wake of the Bay State's 2006 healthcare reform and MassHealth expansion.

Public health analysts at Harvard found that in the four years after Massachusetts instituted comprehensive health reform -- a model on which the Affordable Care Act is based -- the state's mortality dropped 2.9 percent in comparison with states with similar populations and demographics that did not expand healthcare coverage.

The researchers suggest that from 2007 to 2010, Massachusetts' health reform law prevented approximately 320 deaths per year.

"Given that Massachusetts' health reform was in many ways the model for the Affordable Care Act, it is critical to understand the law's potential implications for population health," said Benjamin Sommers, lead author of the new study and assistant professor of health policy and economics at Harvard School of Public Health.

"What we found in Massachusetts after reform was a significant reduction in deaths from the kinds of illnesses where we expect health care to have the biggest impact, including infections, cancer, and cardiovascular disease," Sommers added.

Sommers and his colleagues, including senior author Katherine Baicker, found that communities with lower median incomes and higher numbers of uninsured residents were -- not surprisingly -- more likely to benefit from health reform's life-saving benefits.

Also included in their findings: the post-reform decline among minority groups was nearly twice as large as it was for whites.

"Our findings add to a growing body of evidence showing that health insurance makes a positive difference in people's lives," concluded Sommers.

The research was published this week in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

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