Did Obamacare Save Lives?

One of the popular objections to the GOP proposals to reform health insurance markets is that the Affordable Care Act (aka “ObamaCare”) saved thousands of lives per year, and hence that tinkering with ObamaCare will literally kill lots of people. For example, Hillary Clinton tweeted out:

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Now to be sure, even if the claim were true, it still wouldn’t follow that coercive redistribution of wealth was morally justified. However, as happens so often in political controversies, libertarians don’t have to choose between property rights and preventing widespread suffering.  Believe it or not, the data suggest that if anything, ObamaCare actually caused more Americans to die.

Time to buy old US gold coins

None of what I write in this piece should be construed as an endorsement of the GOP bills. But the claim that they would “kill lots of people” is not valid.

Oren Cass’s Amazing Takedown

The researcher who alerted me to these awkward facts was the Manhattan Institute’s Oren Cass. Cass makes three important points in his recent study:

#1. The various estimates of the alleged lives saved under ObamaCare were not based on actual mortality data. Rather, these pro-ObamaCare studies relied on previous episodes (such as the implementation of “RomneyCare” in Massachusetts) where the expansion of insurance coverage went hand-in-hand with improved health outcomes. Then, taking this correlation as a “fact,” the pro-ObamaCare researchers multiplied by the expansion of insurance under ObamaCare and came up with an estimate of how many Americans’ lives were saved.

Yet as Cass points out, this procedure is flawed. What the literature actually shows is that expansion of private health insurance coverage contributes to improved health outcomes. But under ObamaCare, the…

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