Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Study links broader health insurance with better health

Date:
December 10, 2013
Source:
University of Michigan Health System
Summary:
In 2006, Massachusetts was on the same brink that the entire nation is on today: the brink of expanding health insurance to cover far more people than before. Now, a study shows the health of its residents improved measurably, especially among the poor and near-poor, in just the first five years -- compared with the health of neighboring states.

In 2006, Massachusetts was on the same brink that the entire nation is on today: the brink of expanding health insurance to cover far more people than before, through government-driven, market-based reform.

Now, a new study shows the health of residents in that one trailblazing state improved measurably, especially among the poor and near-poor, in just the first five years -- compared with the health of residents in neighboring states. So did the use of some preventive care, specifically two tests designed to spot colon and cervical cancers early, and cholesterol tests to gauge heart disease risk.

Meanwhile, over those same five years, Massachusetts residents were increasingly likely to say they had health insurance and access to a personal doctor, and less likely to say that costs stood in the way of getting care, than other New Englanders. The changes occurred at similar rates for black, white and Hispanic residents.

Writing in the new issue of The Milbank Quarterly, the study's authors note that they can't be certain that all the population-wide differences between Massachusetts and its neighbors came directly from the expansion of insurance coverage. Other reforms likely had an impact, too. But their detailed statistical analysis, supported by the Commonwealth Fund, points firmly to a positive impact, especially among residents with the lowest incomes.

"Everyone has been looking over the past few years at Massachusetts, which was the first state to show the rest of the U.S. that near-universal coverage could be achieved," says first author Philip Van der Wees, Ph.D., a Dutch researcher who was at Harvard University when the study was conducted. "We found that people have gained in general, mental, and physical health, and that some preventive measures improved. We would hope that this would be a blueprint for the rest of the U.S., though Massachusetts is not the average state, because it began from a higher level of insurance," among the state's residents than the current U.S. average.

Van der Wees worked on the study with John Z. Ayanian, M.D., MPP, formerly of Harvard Medical School and now director of the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, and with Harvard health care statistics expert Alan Zaslavsky, Ph.D. Van der Wees at the time was a Commonwealth Fund Dutch Harkness Fellow in Health Care Policy and Practice; he is now at Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center in the Netherlands.

"Our results demonstrate the potential benefits of health care reform in Massachusetts that may also be achieved through the implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act," says Ayanian.

"And, just as with the ACA, the impact of broader health insurance coverage in Massachusetts is intertwined with the effects of numerous efforts in the public and private sector to improve health care quality and contain costs," he adds.

Statewide surveys reveal changes

The data for the study came from annual random telephone surveys during 2001 through 2011 that asked 345,211 New Englanders questions about their general, physical and mental health, and their use of and access to health care services including cholesterol testing and screening for cancers of the breast, colon and cervix. The data were gathered by state health departments in conjunction with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The researchers used advanced statistical approaches to study the data collected between 2001 and 2011 as part of the CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. This allowed them to detect subtle differences in health status and behaviors, and to analyze these differences further by income and race/ethnicity.

While the research didn't show huge jumps in any particular area of health, care, or access, the overall pattern is consistent with a positive impact from increased health insurance and other reforms, compared with states that didn't embark on major reform efforts. Even when the researchers excluded data from Vermont and Maine, which launched smaller-scale reform efforts, Massachusetts showed greater improvements.

The authors note that the "rising tide" effect in Massachusetts compared with other states was greater among those whose incomes were within 300 percent of the federal poverty level. These poor and near-poor residents had a faster rise in measures related to health care access and health status. The rate of changes in health status, access and care were similar among white, black and Hispanic residents, which means that deeply entrenched disparities in health likely persisted.

By studying access to care and health outcomes for five years after health reform took effect in Massachusetts, the authors also were able to distinguish how access to care and health outcomes changed over time. Whereas improvements in insurance coverage and reduced cost barriers to care were seen within one year after health reform, access to personal doctors improved after two years and gains in health status became evident after four years.

These statewide findings counter prior anecdotal perceptions that access to primary care worsened in Massachusetts after more residents gained insurance coverage.

The editor of the Milbank Quarterly, U-M Medical School professor Howard Markel, M.D., Ph.D., calls the study an important contribution to understanding of the potential implications of the federal Affordable Care Act.

"In an era of demagoguery and exaggeration posing as "facts" it is essential to collect and analyze solid evidence on our nation's health care policies," says Markel, the George E. Wantz Distinguished Professor of the History of Medicine and Director of the Center for the History of Medicine at U-M. "Indeed, it is the only way I know to approach the Sisyphean task of reforming and improving health care access for all Americans. Publishing and disseminating articles like this one is a solid start in that direction."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Michigan Health System. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Philip Van der Wees et al. Improvements in Health Status after Massachusetts Health Care Reform. The Milbank Quarterly, December 2013

Cite This Page:

University of Michigan Health System. "Study links broader health insurance with better health." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 December 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131210091128.htm>.
University of Michigan Health System. (2013, December 10). Study links broader health insurance with better health. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131210091128.htm
University of Michigan Health System. "Study links broader health insurance with better health." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131210091128.htm (accessed September 20, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Sierra Leone's Nationwide Ebola Curfew Underway

Sierra Leone's Nationwide Ebola Curfew Underway

Newsy (Sep. 20, 2014) Sierra Leone is locked down as aid workers and volunteers look for new cases of Ebola. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Changes Found In Brain After One Dose Of Antidepressants

Changes Found In Brain After One Dose Of Antidepressants

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) A study suggest antidepressants can kick in much sooner than previously thought. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

AP (Sep. 19, 2014) A federal jury has convicted three people in connection with an outbreak of salmonella poisoning five years ago that sickened hundreds of people and was linked to a number of deaths. (Sept. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins