Medicaid Study Says It Saves Lives
States that expand their Medicaid programs under President Barack Obama's health care law may end up saving lives, a medical journal report released Wednesday indicates.
Until now, the Medicaid debate has been about budgets and states' rights. But a statistical study by Harvard researchers in the New England Journal of Medicine found a 6 percent drop in the adult death rate in Arizona, Maine and New York, three states that have recently expanded coverage for low-income residents along the general lines of the federal health care law.
The study found that for every 176 adults covered under expanded Medicaid, one death per year would be prevented.
Policymakers should be should be aware that major changes in Medicaid either expansions or reductions in coverage may have significant effects on the health of vulnerable populations, wrote the researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health.
Medicaid is a federal-state program for low-income and severely disabled people. It covers about 60 million people in the United States. The new law assigned Medicaid a major role in expanding coverage, accounting for about half the 30 million uninsured people expected to gain insurance as a result of the health overhaul.
But the Supreme Court last month ruled that states have the leeway to reject the law's Medicaid expansion, which is geared to reach mostly uninsured adults without children and with annual incomes up to about $15,400. As a consequence, the Congressional Budget Office projects 3 million fewer people will gain coverage. Although the CBO still expects most states will expand their programs to some degree, the agency's nonpartisan analysts project that it may take longer than a decade for some governors and legislatures to decide.