Massachusetts Residents Healthier After Health Care Reform

Released: 12/12/2013 3:00 PM EST
Source Newsroom: Health Behavior News Service
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Citations Milbank Quarterly

Release Date: December 12, 2013 | By Glenda Fauntleroy, HBNS Contributing Writer
Research Source: Milbank Quarterly


* Residents of Massachusetts saw small gains in health status following the enactment of a state-wide health insurance mandate in 2006.
* There were increases in the use of preventive care services following the insurance mandate, particularly among low-income residents.

Massachusetts residents are healthier since a state-wide health insurance coverage mandate was enacted in 2006, finds a new study in the Milbank Quarterly.

Newswise — Nearly 98 percent of Massachusetts’ 400,000 residents now have coverage—either through individual purchase or expanded Medicaid coverage for children and low-income residents. And while the reform was initially met with controversy, it has gained popularity in the past 5 years.

“The annual Massachusetts Health Reform Survey shows that approximately two-thirds of Massachusetts residents support the reform,” said lead author Philip Van der Wees, Ph.D. of the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center in The Netherlands.

Researchers used data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System to compare the health status and use of preventive health services of Massachusetts residents with residents of other New England states. The study, which ran from 2001 to 2011, included more than 345,000 adults.

Residents in Massachusetts reported they had overall increases in their general health (1.7 percent increase), physical health (1.3 percent increase), and mental health (1.5 percent) since 2006. There were also increases in the use of preventive health services such as Pap screening (2.3 percent), colonoscopy (5.5 percent), and cholesterol testing (1.4 percent), particularly among low-income households.

With the increased use in preventive health services, Van der Wees said, the health of residents who were previously uninsured and who gained Medicare insurance will continue to improve over time.

“They first had to overcome a ‘backlog’ of medical treatment that may take several years,” he explained. “So we expect a continuing positive impact of health reform over the coming years.”

Andrew Hyman, J.D., senior program officer on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Coverage program management team, agreed health outcomes should improve.

“We know that when uninsured people get covered, they are protected from significant financial burdens, which provides relief from many other problems,” he explained.

“No doubt, researchers should continue to monitor the impact of health reform in the state, particularly to understand the long-term health benefits of increased access to preventive care.”

Given what we’ve seen so far, the experience in Massachusetts should be very encouraging to other states and their leaders as they work to implement the Affordable Care Act and expand coverage, Hyman added.

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Van der Wees PJ, Zaslavsky AM, et al. Improvements in health status after Massachusetts health care reform. Milbank Quarterly 91(4), 2013.