A new study reveals that Medicaid expansion has reduced deaths in states where it has been adopted. By contrast, in states that have refused to expand their Medicaid coverage, approximately 15,600 people have died as a result. This study is the first large-scale assessment of the effect of Medicaid expansion on mortality.
Created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicaid expansion offers states the option to establish a pathway for Medicaid coverage for low-income adults aged 19-64. Prior to the ACA, these individuals were not generally eligible for Medicaid. In the first year of the expansion’s availability, 29 states plus the District of Columbia leapt at this opportunity, and seven other states have since chosen to extend coverage.
The study, which focused on individuals who were between 55 and 64, found a large reduction in deaths in states that expanded Medicaid. Before Medicaid expansion was available, members of this group had similar mortality trends no matter where they lived. After the expansion, however, those in non-expansion states began dying at a higher rate. This trend started in the first year of the expansion and has increased every year that a state continues to offer the coverage. The authors calculate that approximately 15,600 deaths could have been averted if all states had adopted the Medicaid expansion. They also note that because of the nature of these health gains, the difference between expansion and non-expansion states is likely to continue to increase.
Medicare Rights supports Medicaid expansion both because of its positive effects on the individuals who are eligible for coverage and for the benefits to the Medicare program of having people receive regular health care before they reach Medicare eligibility. This study should spur non-expansion states to take another look at the benefits of expanding coverage and the devastating costs a failure to expand may be inflicting on vulnerable residents.