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Hundreds of lives saved by universal healthcare in US

Expanding health insurance in the United States saves lives.

In 2006, Massachusetts began requiring health insurance coverage for nearly all residents – years before the rest of the country. Now a study shows that after the reforms went into effect, the state saw a 2.9 per cent decrease in the death rate through 2010. According to the study, which was led by Benjamin Sommers of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, that translates to around 320 lives saved every year.

The finding hints at the benefits that may soon be felt in the rest of the US, where since October millions of Americans have signed up for insurance under the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA), which is modelled on the Massachusetts system. Often referred to as “Obamacare”, the programme calls for every American who can afford health insurance to obtain it or face a financial penalty.

To figure out how expanding health insurance affected mortality of people living in Massachusetts, the study tracked the death rates per 100,000 people in the state between 2001 and 2010. It also looked at 513 other counties across the US that had similar demographics to counties in Massachusetts, but did not experience any healthcare reform.

Die less, live more
The researchers found that the state’s mortality rate decreased starting in 2006, after the implementation of the new system. The change was more pronounced in lower-income counties, which saw a 3 per cent drop in the death rate compared with just 1.8 per cent for high-income counties. Deaths among people with conditions that would be expected to improve through access to healthcare, such as cancer, heart disease and infectious disease, also dropped by 4.5 per cent.

Our study adds to a growing body of evidence that getting health insurance makes a real difference for people – 320 fewer deaths per year is a pretty big deal,” says Sommers.

The Massachusetts reforms were a blueprint for Obamacare. Both laws require citizens to purchase health insurance if they can afford it, and offer government subsidies for those who cannot. The federal programme also asks all states to set up special exchanges like that in Massachusetts where people can compare available insurance policies against each other.

Greater impact
Past research suggests that the Massachusetts healthcare law has had other beneficial effects besides lower death rates. A study from the National Bureau of Economic Research in 2010 found that there were fewer hospital visits after the state’s reforms. Another study, released last year, showed that between 1 and 2 per cent of Massachusetts residents reported better health statuses.

Massachusetts had only limited room for improvement, says Martin McKee, co-director of the European Center on Health of Societies in Transition in London. Even before the law took effect, the state ranked highly in the number of people insured and the overall health of its population. That means that other parts of the country could stand to improve even more with the ACA.

“Expanded coverage is likely to have a much greater impact in other states that have much higher rates of amenable mortality,” he says.

John Ayanian, director of the Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation at the University of Michigan, agrees. But he also points out that the study showed that the Massachusetts programme had some of its greatest gains in lower income portions of the population. Under Obamacare, those who can’t afford health insurance were meant to get coverage through a voluntary expansion of Medicaid programs at the state level. But this provision is not mandatory, and only 26 states and the District of Columbia have so far elected to expand their Medicaid programmes.

“States that aren’t expanding their Medicaid programme under the ACA may be leaving their residents with lower incomes out,” he says.
But admitting it provokes horror(!) in most rightwingers..

Quote:Trump’s position on health care is almost indistinguishable from that of the rest of the field. He calls Obamacare a disaster and promises to repeal it and replace it with a sketchily defined alternative that will take care of everybody without any trade-offs. But the basis for the suspicion lies in Trump’s long-ago-renounced support for single-payer health insurance and his more recent promises not to allow people to “die in the streets,” a line that provoked horror in Rubio and Ted Cruz at a February debate. Before Obamacare, those too poor or sick to afford insurance routinely died from illness or suffered horribly. By invoking their suffering, Trump implied that Obamacare did something good.
Why Is Trump Driving Conservatives So Crazy? -- NYMag
Obamacare Helped The Sickest Americans Gain Insurance, Huge Study Confirms
BY BRYAN DEWAN MAR 30, 2016 12:10 PM

A new report released Tuesday from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association underscores the need for the Affordable Care Act’s reforms, finding evidence that the health law effectively expanded coverage to America’s most vulnerable citizens.

According to the data, Obamacare’s newest policyholders were more likely to have a variety of significant health problems — in other words, reasons that insurers might have denied them coverage before the Affordable Care Act was passed.

Newly enrolled policyholders were twice as likely to have diabetes, twice as likely to have Hepatitis C, and three times as likely to have HIV. They also had higher instances of high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, and coronary artery disease. Hospital admission rates were 84 percent higher for these policyholders, and the frequency of their doctor and specialist visits were 26 percent higher.

It’s no surprise that people who newly gained access to coverage under the Affordable Care Act needed health care. That’s why they were locked out of coverage before,” Ben Wakana, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, remarked.

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association study is significant due to the sheer size of claims data analyzed. Since Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans are purchased across the country, researchers had access to claims for 4.7 million people. About one-third of those studied had been continuously enrolled since 2013; the others signed up in 2014 or 2015.

The report also found that the influx of sicker, previously uninsured patients into the health insurance system is contributing to a rise in insurance premiums nationwide. The increased need for care is driving insurance costs up, even as many people are receiving better care.

Thanks to Obamacare, Americans now have greater access to private health insurance plans through the law’s new individual marketplaces, as well as protection against insurance companies denying them coverage based on pre-existing medical conditions.

Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, the percentage of uninsured citizens has dropped considerably. Nearly 9 in 10 American adults now have health insurance, and the law has helped to close the health insurance gap between low-income people and wealthier Americans.
Here is one story you've got to read. A baby born with a heterotaxy syndrom (causes unknown), needed surgery at age 4. then the bill came

Quote:It was late on a Friday evening when I collected the day’s letters from the mailbox. One of those envelopes held a medical bill for my 3-year-old son; I’d moved it to the bottom of the pile because I wanted to work up to opening it, but when the ads for roofing companies and oil changes were taken care of, there was nothing else left. I took a deep breath and pulled the sheets of paper from the envelope, scanning them quickly, past line after line of impossibly large numbers, until I found the simple statement, printed in bold letters: PLEASE PAY THIS AMOUNT: $500.

I burst out laughing with the sheer relief of it all. Thank goodness for insurance. I pulled up my calculator and started adding numbers. My children slept upstairs while the tally mounted, and when I got to the end I smiled wryly. $231,115, give or take a dollar or two. The price of a four-chambered heart. Not all hearts are this expensive, but my son, Ethan, was born with heterotaxy syndrome, a rare condition that can cause any of the internal organs to be malformed, misplaced, multiplied, or missing altogether. Ethan’s insides are a math all their own: two left lungs, five spleens, and nine congenital heart defects. It was his heart that had brought him to the operating room to have his chest opened four times in his short life, and the bill I was holding was for the latest of these surgeries.
I shared my toddler's hospital bill on Twitter. First came supporters — then death threats. - Vox

And then the reactions when the mum posted the bill on twitter.. Absolutely disgusting.

Quote:At first I tried to keep up with the flood and even attempted to reason with some of the haters, but I realized quickly that it was useless, and not just because of the sheer number of comments. It was because no one was listening. No one seemed willing to stop shouting long enough to realize that there was a real person on the other side of the screen, a mother who’s seen her baby go through hell and come out the other side four times now and who just wants him to have a shot at going to kindergarten too.
I shared my toddler's hospital bill on Twitter. First came supporters — then death threats. - Vox

But especially, realize this:

Quote:I hope our story reminds people that anyone could be just one diagnosis away from medical bankruptcy
I shared my toddler's hospital bill on Twitter. First came supporters — then death threats. - Vox