Universal health care could have saved more than 100,000 American lives from COVID-19: study – The Hill

History at a glance


  • Researchers at Yale University studied death rates and insurance enrollment data before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • They found that the lack of consistent health insurance exacerbated the pandemic and resulted in the deaths of more Americans from COVID-19.

  • In 2020 alone, researchers calculated that 131,438 deaths could have been saved if the United States had a universal health system.

More than 1 million people have died from COVID-19 in the United States, but more than 200,000 lives could have been saved if the country had a one-pay universal health care system in 2020, according to a new study.

Researchers at the Yale School of Public Health analyzed national mortality data before and after the COVID-19 pandemic and their results indicated that a fragmented health system led to preventable deaths and unnecessary costs.

As of Thursday, the United States has recorded 1,007,374 deaths from COVID-19 and more than 85 million positive cases. At the same time, according to the researchers, the United States has spent more on health care than any other country, both overall and on a per capita basis.

Because the United States lacks universal health care, millions of Americans rely on private market plans and employer-sponsored coverage. However, the pandemic caused the unemployment of more than 9 million Americans, many of whom lost critical health insurance during a global pandemic.

“Inadequate health insurance coverage has exacerbated the COVID-19 pandemic at both the individual and population levels,” the researchers wrote.


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Researchers linked mortality statistics to national insurance enrollment to quantify how the lack of consistent health insurance caused high death rates.

They found that insurance enrollment from December 2019 to April 2020 suffered a drop of 14.5 million employer-sponsored insurance plans. Around the same time, Medicaid enrollments increased from 71.6 million in March 2020 to 80.2 million in December 2020, as unemployed Americans can become eligible for Medicaid based on income and family size.

The researchers noted that the rise in Medicaid enrollments could have multiple explanations, including as a response to unemployment, the result of Medicaid’s ongoing expansion efforts, or because of the perceived risk of COVID-19.

Linking these statistics to mortality data, the researchers calculated that 26.4 percent of the lives lost to COVID-19 would likely have been saved had the United States had universal health care during the pandemic.

This means that in 2020 alone, 131,438 American lives could have been saved from COVID-19 and more than 200,000 additional deaths from the virus could have been averted since then.

“Universal health coverage decoupled from unemployment and disconnected from profit motives would have helped the country in a better place against a pandemic,” the researchers wrote.

The move to universal health care could also have saved the federal government money, with researchers calculating that $ 459 billion could have been saved in 2020 alone.

It’s conceivable, as researchers found government-sponsored Medicare rates are 22 percent lower than those charged by private insurance companies for the same services. When it came to COVID-19, private insurers paid more than double the Medicaid rate for a hospitalization case for COVID-19.

Universal health care is an idea that Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) Campaigned on his run for president, introducing a Medicare for All plan that would establish a one-pay national health insurance program.

The senator tried to introduce the same plan in May, flanked by a handful of fellow Democrats, which would be implemented over a four-year period. It would establish a federally administered national health insurance program and would include dental care, vision coverage, and hearing aids with no out-of-pocket expenses, insurance premiums, deductibles, or co-payments.

The House has not yet adopted the law.

Published June 16, 2022

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