Expanded Medicaid Qualifications Reduces Adult Mortality Rates

medicaid qualifications

The expanded Medicaid qualifications set to take place under the new health care reform law could help reduce adult mortality rates of millions of Americans, according to a new study released in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study found that expansions have already reduced death rates in various states and could make a difference on a national level as well.

State Expansions on Medicaid Qualifications

Expansions on state Medicaid qualifications have made a significant difference on U.S. mortality rates, according to Benjamin Sommers, lead author of the study, and assistant professor in health policy and economics at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Sommers revealed in his findings that states choosing to expand Medicaid — a government-based health insurance program for poor Americans — to a broader number of residents, resulted in a reduction in adult death rates.

The study took a look at three states that widely expanded Medicaid qualifications for adults over the past decade — Arizona, Maine and New York. Compared with their neighboring states — New Mexico (for Arizona), New Hampshire (for Maine) and Pennsylvania (for New York) — those that expanded Medicaid saw a 6.1-percent decrease in mortality from all causes.

The decline in U.S. mortality rates were significant among adults between 35 and 64, as well as minorities and residents of poor counties. In fact, among study respondents, the number of people reporting their health status as “very good” or “excellent” jumped significantly.

The study also found the expansion decreased the number of individuals without health insurance, and improved the rates of delayed care due to the high cost of healthcare.

U.S. Mortality Rates May Improve with Continued Expansion

With the study revealing success in reducing mortality rates on the state-level, many are now looking to the nationwide Medicaid qualifications expansion, under the health care reform law, to determine whether it could have the same effect on U.S. mortality rates.

The debate over the success of a nationwide Medicaid expansion is almost as heated as the validity of the health care reform law itself. Just last month, the Supreme Court upheld the law following a fierce battle along party lines over the constitutionality of the health insurance mandate.

Many states are not convinced that providing expanding Medicaid qualifications to a larger group of residents is beneficial. And the decision has been left up to them, according to the Supreme Court, which ruled that each state gets to decide whether to extend coverage to the total 16 million Americans who will be eligible starting in 2014.

Some governors argued that expanding the program to include more people is a financial burden states can’t manage, and have vowed to opt out of the expansion. But some others agree with benefits such as reduced mortality and are considering the expansion as an option.