If Obamacare works as well as Romneycare does in Massachusetts our death rate will fall

Ezekial Emanuel, one of the architects of both health plans

The death rate in Massachusetts dropped significantly after it adopted mandatory health care coverage in 2006, a study released Monday found, offering evidence that the country’s first experiment with universal coverage — and the model for crucial parts of President Obama’s health care law — has saved lives, health economists say.

The study tallied deaths in Massachusetts from 2001 to 2010 and found that the mortality rate — the number of deaths per 100,000 people — fell by about 3 percent in the four years after the law went into effect. The decline was steepest in counties with the highest proportions of poor and previously uninsured people. In contrast, the mortality rate in a control group of counties similar to Massachusetts in other states was largely unchanged.

A national 3 percent decline in mortality among adults under 65 would mean about 17,000 fewer deaths a year…

Massachusetts is whiter and more affluent than most states, and has more doctors per capita and fewer uninsured people. But researchers said that the state’s health insurance law nevertheless amounted to the best natural experiment the country has had for testing the effects of a major insurance expansion on a large population.

In Suffolk County, which includes Boston, the death rate for adults under 65 dropped by about 7 percent from 2005 to 2010, the study’s authors said.

There have been patchy efforts to boost coverage for the poor in states like Arizona, Maine and New York, but Massachusetts is the only state to fully overhaul its health system to cover almost everybody…

David O. Meltzer, a health economist from the University of Chicago, who was not involved in the study, said one of the study’s strengths was its size. It looked at four million people in Massachusetts — the entire population age 20 to 64 — and compared them with more than 44 million people in control counties…

The biggest declines happened for conditions that are more likely to be deadly if not caught early — for example, infections from complications of diabetes, heart attacks and cancer.

Americans continue to amaze the rest of the industrialized world. The rate at which we catch on to real social and economic benefits truly lags any sort of common sense. Here we are adopting a half-Republican version of the National Health Service folks in the UK have had for over 60 years. My kin in the Great White North have had the more advanced Canadian version for 30 years.

About the only thing we manage to achieve is higher salaries for doctors and hospital administrators. And insurance company executives.

Of course, we have a surplus of priests, politicians and pundits who tell us we are committing an unholy act by improving health care for all. OTOH, when we have the same number of years to evaluate the single payer system starting up in Vermont, I’ll wager we will find the benefits even more cost effective and achieving similar or better results. The rest of us will continue to ignore the naysayers.

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