New Study: Health Insurance Saves Lives of Poor

Health Care

Nhealthinsuranceew Orleans This should be the least surprising news since you learned that sugar tastes good, but now there is actually statistical proof from a drug-trial-like study that when the poor have health insurance by damn their health improves!  I’m not sure having hard proof will change any minds or votes among lawmakers but at least in the grand debate about health insurance there will now be no pretense that voting to limit or end health insurance for low income families will put blood on your hands, because it will be killing them.  Ok, maybe I’m overreaching, because that will only be clearer once the second phase of the study is completed, but it is pretty obvious where it’s going at this point, so be ready for that, too.

A study “The Oregon Health Insurance Experiment: Evidence from the First Year,” by a baseball team full of academics (Amy Finkelstein, Sarah Taubman, Bill Wright, Mira Bernstein, Jonathan Gruber, Joseph P. Newhouse, Heidi Allen, Katherine Baicker, The Oregon Health Study Group) was published by the National Bureau of Economic Research this week and reported by Gina Kolata in the New York Times. In 2008 the professors jumped on the once-in-a-lifetime policy disaster and statistical goldmine.  Oregon had approved a statewide healthcare Medicaid plan for low income families but did not have the dollars to put the whole show on the road.  In a novel, random solution, the state held a lottery and chose the 10,000 winners, who received the insurance, from the 80000 odd folks who were eligible and therefore equally poor.  The profs then surveyed the winners and measured the outcomes compared to the losers.  It is important to note that Oregon was able to provide insurance to everyone in 2009.

According to the Times:

“Those with Medicaid were 34 percent more likely to go to a clinic or see a doctor, 15 percent more likely to use prescription drugs and 30 percent more likely to be admitted to a hospital.   Women …were 60 percent more likely to have mammograms…20 percent more likely to have their cholesterol checked…70 percent more likely to have a particular clinic or office for medical care and 55 percent more likely to have a doctor whom they usually saw.”

There was also a 25% increase in the numbers who said their health had improved to good or excellent, and “they were 40 percent less likely to say their health had worsened….”

Bam!  Debate over about the benefits of the poor having full health coverage is over!  Yes, people will use it, get better, feel better, and have less medical debt.

Couple this study with the finding I discussed yesterday on the number of people killed annually by inequitable access to services, including health, and this ought to be open and shut on what is indisputably a life-and-death decision.

Who’s ready to have their vote counted now?