Health

Mass. Health Reform Linked to State’s Lower Death Rate

President Barack Obama speaks at Boston's historic Faneuil Hall about the federal health care law, Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013. Faneuil Hall is where former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Obama's rival in the 2012 presidential election, signed the state's landmark health care law in 2006, with top Democrats standing by his side. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
President Barack Obama speaks at Boston's historic Faneuil Hall about the federal health care law, Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013. AP

The death rate in Massachusetts decreased in the first four years after the passage of the 2006 law expanding health insurance coverage in the state compared to the other New England states that did not undergo health reform, a new study by researchers at Harvard’s School of Public Health found.

The researchers, using county data by US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, look at the death rate in Massachusetts of adults aged 20 to 64 from 2001 to 2005—before the state’s health reform—and between 2007 and 2010, after the reform was implemented. They then compared the changes to similar counties in the other New England states during the same time period that did not undergo health policy changes.

The death rate in Massachusetts decreased by 2.9 percent compared to the other states, the study found.

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Expanded access to care under the Massachusetts health reform may have prevented as many as 320 deaths per year—one live for every 830 people who signed up in the state, the researchers estimated. The greatest decrease in mortality was found among lower income counties in Massachusetts where the majority of residents were either underinsured or uninsured until the 2006 health coverage expansion.

The study, published Monday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, found that mortality rates were lowest in areas where residents received timely health care.

“Given that Massachusetts’ health reform was in many ways the model for the Affordable Care Act, it is critical to understand the law’s potential implications for population health,” Benjamin Sommers, assistant professor of health policy and economics at Harvard School of Public Health and lead author of the study said in a public statement.

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