Early Studies of Health Reform Show Promising Findings

May 7, 2014

With the clear success of the first open enrollment, many now wonder if health reform will succeed in decreasing health care costs and improving health outcomes. Although it is too early to start answering our most pressing questions, studies have released some promising findings.

The Harvard School of Public Health recently conducted a new study looking at the health outcomes of healthcare reform in Massachusetts. Massachusetts’ health law, which the Affordable Care Act is modeled after, was implemented in 2006 and provides evidence that health insurance positively impact people’s lives. The Harvard study reported that from 2007 to 2010, the state’s mortality rate dropped by 2.9% (8.2 deaths per 100,000 adults). Additionally, deaths from treatable conditions dropped by 4.5%. This means that people with access to a doctor and medication, showed improved health outcomes. Despite the fact that this is great news, we must keep in mind that states have different political climates, demographics, economies, and health systems. Massachusetts is known for its high number of physicians per capita and low rate of uninsurance. Therefore, these same results might not be reflected in other states. Nonetheless, the study does show a connection between health insurance and improved health, and that is something to get excited about.

Gallup also conducted a study of changes in the national uninsured rate and the likely future impact of Obamacare. Gallup reported that the uninsured rate dropped to 13.4% in April, down from 15.0% in March. This number is even more impressive when compared to the uninsured rate from less than a year ago (18.0%). Additional rates broken down by age, race, and income:

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When simply looking at the numbers, Obamacare has delivered. There are more people with healthcare coverage, and the uninsured rate is expected to continually decline as the 2015 employer mandate is implemented and individual mandate penalties increase each year. While some individuals will not enroll and remain insured, maximizing coverage will require a sustained multi-year effort, with a broader goal of building a “culture of coverage.”

Gaining insurance is new for many. It will take more than health care coverage and access to doctors to sustain the findings in both of these studies. So, although these findings are positive, more data are needed to really understand what pieces of Obamacare will prove successful in the long run.