A study published Monday on the Massachusetts health care law found some benefits — and large costs.
Harvard researchers found that after Romneycare was implemented in 2006, mortality rates from causes treatable by medical care fell.
The death rate among adults from ages 20 to 64 in Massachusetts fell by 2.9 percent relative to the rest of the country, according to the study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The study determined that for about each 830 adults who gained health coverage in the years after Romneycare was implemented, Massachusetts saw one fewer death per year than was expected.
While many pundits are already celebrating the study’s results as a vindication of Obamacare, there is another side to the equation.
The Cato Institute’s director of health policy studies Michael Cannon calculated that if Romneycare is to thank for the drop, it cost at least $4 million per person.
“If we assume the per-person cost of covering those 830 adults is roughly the per-person premium for employer-sponsored coverage in Massachusetts in 2010 (about $5,000), then a back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that RomneyCare spent $4 million or more per life saved,” Cannon wrote Monday in Forbes. “The actual figure may be much higher if we include other costs incurred by that law.”
The wealthier-than-average state, which already the lowest uninsured rate in the nation before adopting Romneycare, also has the highest premiums. To add insult to injury, the formerly successful Romneycare system has been destroyed in the process of becoming Obamacare-compliant: the state scrapped its entire exchange Monday. (RELATED: Massachsuetts To Dump Obamacare Exchange And Start Over)
On a national level, were Obamacare to turn out as successful as Romneycare — doubtful given Massachusetts’ experience with both systems — the cost of $4 million a life would likely be unsustainable.
The study’s authors were quick to note that they were not necessarily attributing the drop in death rates to the health care policy. “Our quasi-experimental approach cannot definitively demonstrate a causal relationship underlying the association between the Massachusetts reform and the states’ declining mortality relatives to other states,” the authors wrote. “It is possible that the post-reform reduction in mortality in Massachusetts was due to other factors that differentially affected Massachusetts, such as the recession.”
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