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7/30/2012 6:01:00 AM
Study: Medicaid reduced Arizona death rate
Don Hughes
Don Hughes
Jerilyn Forsythe
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON - Arizona's 2001 expansion of Medicaid coverage resulted in lower death rates in the state, according to a study of several states that links increased coverage to fewer deaths and overall better health.

The study, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, looked at three states that expanded their Medicaid programs in 2001 and 2002 to cover childless adults. By looking at states with that "major Medicaid expansion," the study hoped to predict what the future of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act might hold.

In the five years after Arizona, New York and Maine expanded Medicaid to cover childless adults, those states posted an average 6.1 percent decrease in mortality rates compared to neighboring states, the study said.

"The ultimate goal of medical care is to keep people from dying prematurely," said Dr. Benjamin Sommers, a Harvard professor and one of the authors of the study. "So we focused on mortality but also looked at other factors along the way."

The report comes as Arizona, like other states, is deciding whether to take part the Medicaid expansion called for in the Affordable Care Act. While he welcomed the report's findings, one state official involved in the deliberations said the study will have little bearing on Arizona's decision to expand.

Arizona Health Insurance Exchange Director Don Hughes said it's no surprise that people with health insurance - whether that is Medicaid or private insurance - receive better health care.

"It makes the case that people who get covered have better outcomes and live longer," Hughes said. "But does that mean that putting people only into Medicaid will have better health outcomes? No."

But health advocates argue that the findings cannot be ignored.

"Increased coverage under the (federal health reform act) expansion would most likely decrease mortality rates even further," said Matt Jewett, director of health policy at Children's Action Alliance in Arizona.

The study was done before the Supreme Court's June ruling that Medicaid expansion was a state option under the Affordable Care Act.

Under the federally funded Medicaid expansion, childless adults who earn up to 133 percent of the federal poverty line would be covered in states that participate.

"The national question was, what happens when you expand Medicaid coverage to this group?" Sommers said. "And so we looked at the three states that have kind of already started to it to give a sense of what would happen in 2014."

Beginning in 2001, Arizona's Medicaid program - the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System - covered childless adults who earned the federal poverty level or less.

But an enrollment freeze that took effect last year has since trimmed the number of people getting that coverage.

Arizona's Medicaid program is still "one of the most effective and of the highest quality in the country," the study said, and Arizona is one of the only states to cover childless adults at all.

But Arizona's coverage has decreased significantly since 2007, when data used in the study was collected.

Jewett said that for childless adults, Arizona was one of "only a handful of states fully cover them up to the federal poverty level."

Hughes said Arizona's decision on Medicaid expansion likely will not come about until November.

"There are still many unanswered questions regarding Medicaid expansion for the state," he said.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Article comment by: Al DiCicco

The Board of Supervisors did this. They stole One mllion dollars from access and used for hiring jail personell in Kingman. Prison Planet.

Posted: Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Article comment by: anonymous anonymous

Imagine a country where doctors, nurses were given free medical schooling in exchange for government service much as our military is given, a retirement plan, a fair and decent wage, livable wage with government pay grades for advancement, a system to cull out the incompetent, no need for a malpractice insurance policy since as government employees a bad dcctor/nurse would be the liability of the government! Imagine doctors, nurses, hospitals run not for profit but for benefit of American citizens, imagine doctors, nurses who chose that profession not out of greed but desire to help, heal the sick! No need fo medical insurance companies leeches upon society, no need for greedy doctors who run up medical bills for their profiteering motives, no medicare/medicaid fraud, just a simple government run medical system where we recruit competent, willing doctors, nurses offering them a decent wage, with government grades for advancement, retirement, we do it in the military why cannot we do it as a national benefit!

Posted: Monday, July 30, 2012
Article comment by: Survivor Despite

It's old news. We knew this before Obamacare passed and the state's one woman death panel{Gov. Brewer} withheld transplants from ACCESS patients. These supposed christians only believe in right to life if it's a baby they can send off to one of their wars 18 yrs. later

Posted: Monday, July 30, 2012
Article comment by: Anson's Nephew

Excellent points Lloyd! The poor are just a drain on our nation and need to be eliminated - vote Willard the Money Hider to protect the rich and rid us of those pesky poor.

Posted: Monday, July 30, 2012
Article comment by: Donna Shadow *********************

You're kidding right?

Posted: Monday, July 30, 2012
Article comment by: Lloyd Athens

Being a Republican, I am outraged by this article. We should not prolong the lives of poor people. They are a drain on the economy. We should enroll all millionaires and billionaires in the medicaid plan, so they can live longer and create more jobs!

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