The Senate's proposed repeal of former President Barack Obama's health care law could cause thousands to lose their lives, a recent study found. (Courtesy photo)
The Senate's proposed repeal of former President Barack Obama's health care law could cause thousands to lose their lives, a recent study found. (Courtesy photo)

While the Congressional Budget Office reviews the Senate’s version of a new health care law proposal and others estimate that millions will lose coverage under the plan, a more frightening report has emerged.

A new column by the Center for American Progress and Harvard University researchers estimates an increase in deaths in the range of 18,000 to 27,700 by 2026 resulting from coverage reductions under the newly released Senate Republican health care repeal bill.

Recent studies of the effects of insurance coverage on mortality confirm that health care coverage has an impact on whether Americans live or die. The column provides estimates of additional deaths under the Senate bill by state.

“There is a growing body of literature that demonstrates the life-and-death impacts of this bill. We designed our approach using the most rigorous studies to calculate data-derived estimates,” said Ann Crawford-Roberts, a medical student at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and graduate of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “As health policy researchers, we were compelled to bring this evidence to bear on the current policy debate.”

Sam Berger, senior policy adviser at the Center for American Progress, said the data “should make senators stop and think whether it’s worth stripping millions of people of their health care coverage, putting their very lives at risk, in order to provide tax breaks to the wealthy, insurance companies, and drug manufacturers.”

“There’s still time for the Senate to abandon this terrible bill and focus on common-sense solutions to improve the health care system for everyone,” Berger said.

Using estimates of mortality rates from Massachusetts’ experience with health reform, CAP estimates the number of additional deaths resulting from coverage reductions from the Senate bill under three scenarios.

One scenario in which coverage reductions from the Senate bill are the same as under the House version and two scenarios in which those coverage reductions are modestly reduced by differences from the House bill.

Assuming that 15 million fewer people would have coverage in 2026, CAP estimates that the coverage reductions from the Senate bill would result in 18,100 additional deaths in 2026.

Assuming that 19 million fewer people would have coverage, CAP estimates that the coverage reductions from the Senate bill would result in 22,900 additional deaths in 2026.

Assuming that 23 million fewer people would have coverage, CAP estimates that the coverage reductions from the Senate bill would result in 27,700 additional deaths in 2026.

If coverage reductions from the Senate bill matched those from the House bill, it would result in 217,000 additional deaths over the next decade.

To put this in perspective, 27,700 deaths would be roughly equal to the number of people in the United States who died from opioid overdoses in 2014 and about twice the number of deaths by homicide that same year, CAP officials said.

“The Senate version of the American Health Care Act is a moral abomination and, in critical ways, is even more cruel than the House version,” said Neera Tanden, president and CEO of the CAP. “After telling us they would start from scratch and write their own bill, Senate Republicans stuck to the House formula: massive cuts to health care for the poor and sick to pay for massive tax cuts for the rich. The Senate bill makes even deeper cuts to Medicaid over time, resulting in at least 14 million fewer people enrolled in Medicaid, who would instead be uninsured.

“Millions of people with pre-existing conditions would lose coverage or face cost increases of thousands of dollars because their essential benefits would no longer be covered — especially maternity care, opioid addiction treatment, and expensive drugs for diseases such as cancer,” Tanden said.

The Senate bill would also end insurance tax credits for many families in the middle class, and combined with lax regulation, which would result in a massive age tax of thousands of dollars for older enrollees, CAP officials added.

By making only skimpy plans affordable, the Senate bill would increase deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs significantly, they said.

“What we’re left with is a string of broken promises,” Tanden said. “‘Insurance for everybody’ means many millions uninsured; not touching Medicaid means gutting the program and ending Medicaid as we know it; lower deductibles mean higher deductibles.

“But this alternative reality would not be the reality of the tens of millions of Americans who would lose coverage from this law,” she said. “No congressional legislation has done so much to hurt so many people in my lifetime. Any senator who votes for this immoral monstrosity will have to answer to the American people and to their conscience.”

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks to Ann and Stacey for their work on this.

    The public is responding intuitively to the impact of 22 million people losing coverage. People with insurance know why we have it, and what we fear about losing it. But it helps have this analysis.

    Ann’s work references Dr. Sommers, but you may know he published a more recent analysis indicating that “The comparable estimate in a more recent analysis of Medicaid’s mortality effects was one life saved for every 239 to 316 adults gaining coverage.” http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMsb1706645?query%3Dfeatured_home%26

    Using this range, average deaths per year approach 80,000 when the Republican plan is fully implemented. Since 1975 we have experienced 3,432 deaths due to terrorism, or 83 per year. It’s bizarre and would be funny, if it weren’t so tragic, that the Republican bill is likely to kill 1000 time more Americans than terrorism.

    Keep making the case.

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