Would Repealing ObamaCare Kill 50,000 People a Year?

Authored by: Matt Palumbo

Liberals have made it very clear what they think would happen if ObamaCare were fully repealed (as opposed to the individual mandate repeal we got).

“Repealing the Affordable Care Act will kill more than 43,000 people annually” reported the Washington Post. “Nearly 36,000 people could die every year” in absence of ObamaCare, cautioned the far-left “Think Progress.” Meanwhile Bernie Sanders informed us that “When you throw 23 million people off of health insurance — people with cancer, people with heart disease, people with diabetes — thousands of people will die… there is study after study making this point.”

Coming to those figures is relatively simple. Simply estimate differences in mortality between the insured and uninsured, and then multiply the difference to the number of expected newly uninsured. It’s common sense, but doesn’t accord for the fact that there’s insurance, and then there’s ObamaCare insurance.

But first, let’s examine the source of the claims.

  • The study which concluded with the “43,000 deaths” figure compared mortality in states that expanded Medicaid in the early 2000s that didn’t to estimate the health benefits of Medicaid (as most of those insured by ObamaCare were insured by the Medicaid expansion). This study was conducted in part by David Himmelstein, founder of Physicians for a National Health Program.
  • The “36,000 deaths” figure is from a Think Progress study that compared morality rates in Massachusetts before and after the enactment of RomneyCare, of which ObamaCare is based off of.

So what’s wrong with the studies?

  • The entire premise of the Himmelstein study is working under the assumption that Medicaid improves health outcomes – as it appeared to in the data from the early 2000s he’s relying on. However, many studies dispute this. Most notable is the famous “Oregon Medicaid health experiment” that analyzed the 2008 Medicaid expansion in the State. The study concluded that Medicaid has “no statistically significant impact on physical health measures.” The main benefit to recipients is that Medicaid acts as a financial cushion.
  • The Think Progress study is based on the assumption that 30 million people would lose coverage if ObamaCare were repealed. In other words, the study assumes that roughly twice as many people would lose coverage, than gained coverage as a result of ObamaCare initially. Additionally, Massachusetts has among the highest quality medical care in the nation, the State is an outlier in regards to health outcomes.

But who cares what two studies say, when they’re in light of the objective fact that mortality rates have increased since the enactment of ObamaCare.

If you look at the death rate after excluding all external causes (such as drugs, alcohol, murder, suicide; anything where medical intervention would be impossible), it increased from a rate of 247.4 per 100,000 people from 2004-2013, to 252.9 in 2014-15.

If we were to round up Himmelstein’s study to “45,000 deaths,” we’d expect the death rate to have dropped to 238 per 100,000. Clearly, liberals are designing their studies about as well as their healthcare systems.


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