Having health insurance would reduce mortality among the uninsured by 10% to 15%, and better health would improve individuals’ annual earnings by 10% to 30%, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, Washington.
The analysis, based on 230 studies over 25 years, is part of the commission’s ongoing look at the societal and individual costs of lacking insurance. About 40 million Americans don’t have health insurance, according to estimates.
Among the consequences: Uninsured people are diagnosed at more advanced stages of disease and once diagnosed, receive less therapeutic care. They also receive less preventive care. The review of 25 years of research yields “a compelling case . . . that having health insurance does lead to improved health by means of better access to medical care,” commission researchers said in a written statement.
In 70% of the health-outcomes studies reviewed, a positive association was found between better outcomes and having health insurance or receiving more medical care. In addition, studies’ conclusions were consistent across populations, time periods and methodologies. Studies that found no link between insurance and better outcomes focused on immediate rather than final outcomes, did not directly compare people with and without insurance or examined trends before 1970, the commission said.
“Considerable evidence developed in the last few decades established that having health insurance has a measurable impact on both mortality and earning potential for the uninsured population,” according to a written statement by Jack Hadley, author of the study and a principle research associate at the Urban Institute.
The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured will follow up this summer with a report on the hidden costs of uncompensated care and uninsured individuals’ out-of-pocket expenditures, said Diane Rowland, its executive director. Another report in fall will examine the costs the nation bears for not covering the uninsured.
“It’s a very important contribution to not only think about what it would cost to cover a population but the flip side of what we’re already bearing as a cost for not covering them,” Rowland said. “As a researcher, I was aware there were studies that looked at this, but I was unaware how comprehensive the evidence was that insurance status is tied to peoples’ economic status and productivity. I think that’s something we need to take into account in terms of health reform.”