Raising Medicaid limits would save lives, study shows
The Kansas City Star
Officials in Missouri and Kansas and other states are busy crunching numbers to determine whether expanding Medicaid limits to comply with the Affordable Care Act makes sense.
So far the answer is yes. The expenses states would incur by making Medicaid available to adults with incomes up to 133 percent of the poverty level would be offset by savings elsewhere in the budgets and by a hefty economic lift as millions of federal dollars pour in to build clinics, purchase equipment and hire medical workers.
A study released earlier this year provides another compelling reason for states to bring more people under their Medicaid umbrellas: It would keep people alive.
Researchers from Harvard University’s School of Public Health took a careful look at the handful of states that already have expanded their programs to cover more low-income adults. They compared mortality rates in New York, Maine and Arizona in the five-year periods before and after they lifted their caps. They also measured them against mortality rates in neighboring states.
After adjusting for numerous variables, researchers concluded that Medicaid expansions played a role in reducing deaths by 6 percent a year across the three states. Put another way, they saved 2,840 lives for every 500,000 adults added.
These findings, published in The New England Journal of Medicine shortly after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling made state Medicaid expansions optional, are significant but not startling. Reductions in infant and child mortality were noted after state Medicaid expansions in the 1980s.
The study’s authors and other experts say more research is needed. But it makes sense that people who are able to access health care on a regular basis live better and, in some cases, longer lives.
Prevented deaths won’t show up on a state’s balance sheet. But lawmakers would be foolish and heartless to carry on as though people’s lives don’t matter.