Drop in Mortality Rate Seen in Massachusetts after 2006 Adoption of Health Law that Became Model for Obamacare

Wednesday, May 07, 2014
Gov. Mitt Romney signs 2006 Massachusetts healthcare law (Getty photo)

The national debate over Obamacare just added a new talking point now that research shows the inspiration for President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law appears to have helped people live longer lives.

 

Massachusetts’s healthcare law, adopted in 2006 with the approval of then-Governor Mitt Romney, required universal coverage for all residents. In the four years since it was implemented, the state’s mortality rate declined by nearly 3%, according to economists at the Harvard School of Public Health.

 

Samuel Preston, a demographer at the University of Pennsylvania and an authority on life expectancy who was not involved in the study, called the findings “big.” He described the study, which reviewed deaths in Massachusetts from 2001 to 2010, as “careful and thoughtful.”

 

A participant in the Harvard study, health economics professor Katherine Baicker, told The New York Times: “This is an important piece of the puzzle. Putting the evidence together paints a very strong picture that expanding insurance substantially improves the well-being of people who get it.”

 

The overall decline in Massachusetts’ mortality rate, 2.9%, was eclipsed by a much larger decrease in deaths among blacks, Asians and Latinos—4.6%.

 

The Times noted that the Bay State is whiter and more affluent than most states, and has more doctors per capita and fewer uninsured people.

 

Critics of Obamacare were skeptical of the study’s results and its relevance to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

 

“Health care is a much more involved process — you don’t just sign up and suddenly get well,” Joseph Antos, a health economist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, who has written a series of critical articles on the ACA, told the Times.

 

If Obamacare resulted in a 3% mortality drop among adults under 65, it would mean about 17,000 fewer deaths a year.

-Noel Brinkerhoff

 

To Learn More:

Mortality Drop Seen to Follow ’06 Health Law (by Sabrina Tavernise, New York Times)

More Health Insurance Equals Fewer Deaths in Massachusetts (by Martha Bebinger, National Public Radio)

Massachusetts Starts Over on Health Website after Troubles (by Abby Goodnough, New York Times)

Changes in Mortality After Massachusetts Health Care Reform: A Quasi-experimental Study (by Benjamin D. Sommers, MD, PhD; Sharon K. Long, PhD; and Katherine Baicker, PhD; Annals of Internal Medicine) (abstract)

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