Danger: Evidence; Our View; Studies: Without Health Care Law, More Deaths, Higher Deficits

Article excerpt

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is out this week with a study saying that last month's Supreme Court decision upholding most of the Affordable Care Act - but allowing states to opt out of Medicaid expansion - would save the government some money.

But the savings would come at a price - 6 million fewer people would gain insurance coverage under Medicaid, the federal-state program that covers certain low-income Americans. The CBO estimates that 3 million of these people - most of them adults - would be able to buy subsidized insurance through state insurance exchanges created by the ACA. That leaves a net 3 million fewer people who will be covered than the 33 million envisioned in the new law.

The good news is that it will save the government $84 billion over 10 years. The bad news is that the cost of whatever health care these 3 million get, usually in hospital emergency rooms, will continue to be shifted onto those with private insurance in the form of higher premiums.

Even worse news: According to estimates in a study published online Wednesday by The New England Journal of Medicine, for each 500,000 adults who fail to gain access to Medicaid, 2,840 more deaths can be expected each year.

Thus, eliminating access to Medicaid for 3 million adults can be expected to contribute to 17,000 premature deaths each year - roughly equal to the fatalities from six 9/11-style terrorist attacks or 2.6 times the number of U.S. military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. Every year.

This is the part about the opposition to the Affordable Care Act that has been so hard to understand: How do you ignore the human cost of leaving 53 million Americans uninsured?

Yes, the Affordable Care Act will be expensive - the CBO estimates the cost at $1. …