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Massachusetts mortality rate drops under Romneycare

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The mortality rate in Massachusetts has dropped 2.9 percent since the 2006 implementation of the state’s health reform law, often referred to as RomneyCare. Researchers compared death rates among adults, ages 20 to 64 years, between 2001 and 2005 with adult death rates between 2007 and 2010. Their findings were released yesterday in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The Massachusetts Health Reform Act, signed into law by then Governor Mitt Romney, served as a model for the federal Affordable Care Act signed into law March 2010.

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health undertook the study to determine if any association existed between mortality rates from all causes and the Massachusetts health reform that increased health insurance coverage statewide. Study authors note that previous studies comparing levels of health insurance coverage to mortality rates had mixed findings. This recent study used data from the Centers for Disease Control’s Mortality Files to establish mortality rates in the state. The study did not examine overall public health.

While a decrease in the mortality rate is evident in years following the enactment of the health reform law, researchers point out that several factors, other than insurance coverage rates, may have contributed to the decline. This study shows only a correlation between levels of healthcare access and mortality. The study further showed a 4.9 percent decline in mortality from illnesses that are greatly impacted by health care, such as cancer, infections and cardiovascular disease.

The Massachusetts Health Reform Act creates insurance exchanges and offers subsidies for lower-income households. Individuals that could afford health insurance are required to have coverage. Businesses with more than 10 full-time employees must offer health insurance benefits to their employees or pay a “fair share” fine. Massachusetts also expanded Medicaid eligibility to cover more children, pregnant women, parents and the long-term unemployed. These provisions are the basic framework for the Affordable Care Act, which makes this study particularly relevant when debating the merits of the federal health reform law.