Medicaid Expansions Could Improve Death Rates for States

JEFFERSON CITY – Missouri’s Republican lawmakers have said that they will oppose a federal government-supported expansion of Medicaid payrolls under the health care reform law, according to the St. Louis Beacon. Missouri is just one of many states that may opt out of expanding their Medicaid payrolls. But new research shows doing so may help improve the health and lifespans for people in those states.

A study from Harvard researchers suggests that adding folks to a state’s Medicaid program in the past may have helped lower death rates for adults in those states.

In the New England Journal study, researchers looked at mortality rates among people aged 20 to 64 in three states–Arizona, New York and Maine–that had expanded their Medicaid programs, according to The New York Times. The study counted deaths for that age group years five before and after the Medicaid expansion, and also compared the results with nearby states.

After adjusting for factors like age, race and sex, as well as income and local unemployment rates, the study found Medicaid expansions were associated with a 6.1 percent decline in deaths

As The New York Times reports:

“So often you hear, ‘Oh well, poor people just shoot each other, and that’s why they have higher mortality rates,’ ” said Diane Rowland, executive vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit group. “In the midst of many claims about what Medicaid does and doesn’t do, it actually shows that it cannot only be beneficial for health, but in preventing some of the premature deaths of the uninsured.”

Janet M. Currie, director of the Center for Health and Well-Being at Princeton, said the new study, combined with the Oregon research, should help transform the Medicaid debate into one about dollars, rather than over whether covering poor people improves health.

“This says, well there is benefit to giving people insurance,” Dr. Currie said. “Maybe you don’t want to pay the cost, but you can’t say there’s no benefit.”



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