A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine yesterday said that after the 2006 “Romneycare” law went into effect in Massachusetts, mortality rates in Massachusetts dropped by about 3 percent.
The study tallied deaths in Massachusetts from 2001 to 2010 and found that the mortality rate — the number of deaths per 100,000 people — fell by about 3 percent in the four years after the law went into effect. The decline was steepest in counties with the highest proportions of poor and previously uninsured people. In contrast, the mortality rate in a control group of counties similar to Massachusetts in other states was largely unchanged.
A national 3 percent decline in mortality among adults under 65 would mean about 17,000 fewer deaths a year.
There have been a number of estimates of how many people die in the U.S. every year because they lack insurance. I think that’s a hard thing to quantify, and some people (Megan McCardle, actually) denied that access to health care made any difference to mortality rates at all, based on some standard McCardle-style reasoning that makes sense only if you don’t think about it.
The estimates have ranged from a low of 18,000 deaths per year to a high of 45,000 (analysis here), and the new study comes closer to supporting the lower figure. However, I postulate that the effects might be larger in poorer states, especially over a longer period of time (the study only covered 2006-2010). I believe Massachusetts already had lower mortality rates than much of the rest of the country, mostly because it is more affluent overall. Also, it’s going to take a few years before the effects of long years of neglect fade away. But they’re not going to fade so much in “Medicaid gap” states.
See also interesting comments from The Incidental Economist.
Meanwhile Gallup reports that the percentage of uninsured Americans has dropped to the lowest point since they began measuring the percentage of uninsured Americans.