Decrease in US health insurance coverage led to 25,180 deaths

US health insurance coverage, deaths
© Wutthichai Luemuang

US health insurance coverage decreased significantly, resulting in 25,180 excess deaths before COVID – researchers say this number will triple if the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is overturned

Researchers at Harvard Medical School and the City University of New York’s Hunter College analysed federal surveys on health insurance coverage. They found that the number of uninsured Americans increased by roughly 2.3 million between 2016 and 2019 – resulting in as many as 25,180 deaths before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country.

Uninsurance has risen under the current administration

Researchers used three key federal surveys to gather their information:

  1. The American Community Survey (ACS);
  2. The Current Population Survey;
  3. And the National Health Interview Survey.

All three indicated that uninsurance has risen under the current administration, with the ACS results leading the way as the most reliable source of data in this assessment. Using that data in particular, it was found that the level of uninsured Americans rose by 2.3 million. The researchers then applied mortal estimations, based on peer-reviewed studies of what happens to uninsured individuals, and found the figure for excess deaths.

Will the Supreme Court overturn the Affordable Care Act?

In 2018, a federal judge in Texas invalidated the whole ACA policy, which led to the current President adopting the same stance. In 2012, Chief Justice Roberts sided with the four liberal justices to uphold ACA. The court has previously upheld the policy twice. With the appointment of the new Supreme Court justice, Amy Coney Barrett, those who oppose ACA are hopeful that she will provide support to the ending of the healthcare policy.

‘Much worse is ahead’

“Our analysis warns that much worse is ahead if the Supreme Court overturns the ACA, as Trump’s Justice Department is advocating,” stated lead author Dr Adam Gaffney, a pulmonary and critical care physician at Harvard Medical School and the Cambridge Health Alliance.

“Gutting the ACA  would throw another 19.9 million Americans off of insurance, and cause up to 68,345 extra deaths each year. We need to expand insurance, not shrink it. With 30 million uninsured today, we could save thousands of lives by achieving universal coverage,” he added.

”Can’t get the care they need’

“I see that my uninsured patients often can’t get the care they need, and research proves that many who lack coverage die as a result,” noted study author Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, a Distinguished Professor of Urban Public Health at Hunter College and Lecturer at Harvard Medical School.

“President Trump has tried at every turn to undermine the ACA and chip away at coverage. That’s costing thousands of lives.”



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