WSJ 11/16/2017 A new study suggests unintended—and fatal—consequences.
Former President Barack Obama and his advisers claimed that their 2010 health insurance law would create incentives to provide better and more efficient patient care. A new study suggests that one of their bright ideas has since gone disastrously wrong.
This week the Journal reports:
The Affordable Care Act required Medicare to penalize hospitals with high numbers of heart failure patients who returned for treatment shortly after discharge. New research shows that penalty was associated with fewer readmissions, but also higher rates of death among that patient group.
The researchers said the study results, being published in JAMA Cardiology, can’t show cause and effect, but “support the possibility that the [penalty] has had the unintended consequence of increased mortality in patients hospitalized with heart failure.”
The policy went into effect in October 2012 and the new study examines hospital readmission and mortality rates both before and after the penalties were in force. It’s just one study, generated by the experiences of 115,245 Medicare patients hospitalized for heart failure at 416 hospitals between 2006 and 2014. But the results are disturbing:
One in five heart failure patients returned to the hospital within 30 days before the ACA passed. That dropped to 18.4% after the penalties. Mortality rates increased from 7.2% before the ACA to 8.6% after the penalties, or about 5,400 additional deaths a year for Medicare beneficiaries not in managed care plans.
While doctors and researchers consider whether this particular Affordable Care Act policy is killing thousands of patients, the larger question is whether ObamaCare overall is making us less healthy. The implementation of the law has coincided with bad news on U.S. mortality and life expectancy.
Last month the Society of Actuaries reported:
The age-adjusted mortality rate for 2015 was 733.1 (per 100,000), an increase of 1.2% over the 2014 rate of 724.6. This was the first year-over-year increase in the age-adjusted U.S. mortality rates since 2005, and only the seventh year-over-year increase since 1980. In fact, the only other time since 1980 that an annual age-adjusted mortality rate increased by more than 1.0% was in 1993, when the rate increased 2.3% over the 1992 rate.
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