With respect to the Supreme Court’s ruling on Obamacare, we recently pointed out that when conservative governors reject the ACA’s Medicaid expansion and the federal dollars that would otherwise flow along with it, they are knowingly denying healthcare to millions of working poor people (while enjoying excellent government-funded health care for themselves and their own families). Today brings news of a study that puts the Medicaid expansion into the starkest of terms:
Medicaid Expansion May Lower Death Rates, Study Says
Into the maelstrom of debate over whether Medicaid should cover more people comes a new study by Harvard researchers who found that when states expanded their Medicaid programs and gave more poor people health insurance, fewer people died.
Well, knock me over with a feather. Why, according to my ladylogic, that would mean that denying healthcare to people can cause their deaths! As in, you know, dead Americans.
How many dead Americans are we talking about here? Well…
The study, conducted by researchers from Harvard’s School of Public Health, analyzed data from three states that had expanded their programs in the last decade to cover a population not normally eligible for Medicaid: low-income adults without children or disabilities. The new law also expands coverage to a similar population nationally.
For “low-income” read “working poor.”
Researchers looked at mortality rates in those states — New York, Maine and Arizona — five years before and after the Medicaid expansions, and compared them with those in four neighboring states — Pennsylvania, Nevada, New Mexico and New Hampshire — that did not put such expansions in place.
The number of deaths for people age 20 to 64 — adults too young to be considered elderly by the researchers — decreased in the three states with expanded coverage by about 1,500 combined per year, after adjusting for population growth in those states, said Dr. Benjamin D. Sommers, a physician and an assistant professor of health policy and economics who was an author of the study.
When researchers adjusted the data for economic factors like income and unemployment rates and population characteristics like age, sex and race, and then compared those numbers with neighboring states, they estimated that the Medicaid expansions were associated with a decline of 6.1 percent in deaths, or about 2,840 per year for every 500,000 adults added. [Emphasis added.]
Gee, that sure seems like an an awful lot of dead Americans. Now, before the dumbass court made the Medicaid expansion optional, 17 million additional people were expected to be covered by Medicaid. According to my ladymath, if the expansion were fully implemented, 96,560 Americans who would otherwise be dead would be alive instead. Per year. That’s more than 32 times as many people killed in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. What kind of treasonous monster would not do everything possible to save that many American lives? Oh, right…
Medicaid expansions are controversial, not just because they cost states money, but also because some critics, primarily conservatives, contend the program does not improve the health of recipients and may even be associated with worse health.
In the disaster zone that is the conservative mind, up is down, black is white, and healthcare actually results in worse health. Of course lowering death rates—especially for minorities and the poor—does not exactly hold any moral appeal for conservatives: recall that at a Republican primary debate last fall, conservatives applauded for the death of someone who would die young without healthcare. And no study is flawless, of course. But assuming the data is good and the study’s analysis holds up to legitimate scrutiny, it’s safe to say that conservatives have officially lost the moral argument against expanding single payer.
“I can’t tell you for sure that this is a cause-and-effect relationship,” that the Medicaid expansion caused fewer non-elderly adults to die, [study author] Dr. Sommers said. “I can tell you we did everything we could to rule out alternative explanations.”
Lest conservatives be revealed for the amoral narcissists they are, the debate must necessarily shift now to the economic argument.
The U.S. spends twice as much as other industrialized nations on health care, $8,936 per capita. Yet our system performs poorly in comparison and still leaves 50 million without health coverage and millions more inadequately covered.
This is because private insurance bureaucracy and paperwork consume one-third (31 percent) of every health care dollar. Streamlining payment through a single nonprofit payer would save more than $400 billion per year, enough to provide comprehensive, high-quality coverage for all Americans.
It’s always a darkly amusing spectacle to witness conservatives in both parties pretend to care about the dollar cost of healthcare, and to hear all the grand talk of Obama’s “Grand Bargain” and Simpson-Bowles, in which single payer healthcare programs are slashed and sacrificed—and, wherever profitable, privatized.
Now I’m just a silly lefty, but 96,560 American corpses seems like a pretty good argument for single payer to me. And 96,560 American corpses seems like a very good argument for treason.