Breaking: Having Health Insurance Saves Lives!

Hat Tip To: 
Matthew D.

OK, not exactly the most stunning headline in the world (although this does appear to be shocking news to a certain anti-ACA political party), but still kind of cool to have some solid numbers on just how many lives could be saved with universal coverage:

Results: Reform in Massachusetts was associated with a significant decrease in all-cause mortality compared with the control group (−2.9%; P = 0.003, or an absolute decrease of 8.2 deaths per 100 000 adults). Deaths from causes amenable to health care also significantly decreased (−4.5%; P < 0.001). Changes were larger in counties with lower household incomes and higher prereform uninsured rates. Secondary analyses showed significant gains in coverage, access to care, and self-reported health. The number needed to treat was approximately 830 adults gaining health insurance to prevent 1 death per year.

Limitations: Nonrandomized design subject to unmeasured confounders. Massachusetts results may not generalize to other states.

Conclusion: Health reform in Massachusetts was associated with significant reductions in all-cause mortality and deaths from causes amenable to health care.

Now, obviously this isn't conclusive evidence nationally, but assuming that similar ratios do hold true nationally, and considering that the recent Gallup poll indicates that upwards of 11 million people have (net) gained insurance coverage in the first 7 months of the ACA exchanges, this theoretically means that the ACA will save:

  • 11 million / 830 = appx. 13,250 lives per year at a minimum.

Of course, using that same logic, this also suggests that by denying 4.8 million people access to Medicaid, about half the states are causing about 5,800 unnecessary deaths per year. But that's just grim, so I suppose we shouldn't talk about it...