Heart Disease – Related Deaths Decrease Following Expansion of Medicaid in Michigan

Fewer U.S. residents are dying due to cardiovascular deaths in counties that have implemented Medicaid expansion vs. nonexpansion states, according to a recent study presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in May. The study followed information between 2010 and 2016 after some states expanded Medicaid enrollment as part of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as “Obamacare.” 

The research showed that areas of the U.S. that expanded Medicaid had a much lower mortality rate than the states with no expansion, according to Dr. Sameed Khatana, a fellow in cardiovascular disease at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, who co-authored the study. 

Things like unemployment rates, median household income and the number of cardiologists in the states for each 100,000 people were taken into account when compiling the final data numbers.Michigan’s version of the Medicaid expansion is called the Healthy Michigan Plan, and it went into effect April 1, 2014. According to statistics on michigan.gov, more than 660,000 Michiganders were enrolled in the Healthy Michigan Plan as of May of this year, which included people not required to be enrolled in a medical plan. 

Eligibility in this plan depends on things such as household income, family status and disabilities. Exact coverage information can be found online at michigan.gov. Several studies done since this coverage was adopted in Michigan show just how providing medical coverage for many more Michiganders is saving lives in many ways, including those suffering from heart-related problems.

According to statistics from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, cardiovascular problems accounted for 25.8% of statewide deaths in 2017. Heart-related issues have continuously been the top cause of deaths in Michigan for several years prior to that date, and it is still the top cause of death in the state. 

Another study led by the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation involving 4,090 participants covered under the Healthy Michigan Plan reported an improvement in their health status during the first two years of participation. 

Yet another study in 2017 led by researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine – which included teams from the University of Michigan, Inova Heart and Vascular Institute, the Virginia Cardiac Services Quality Institute, and the Michigan Society of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgeons Quality Collaborative – showed Medicaid expansion in Michigan definitely helped save more lives when it comes to cardiovascular deaths in patients covered by the Medicaid expansion in Michigan vs. noncovered patients in the state of Virginia. 

Researchers in this study looked at outcomes based on heart surgery quality databases in both states over a three-year time frame in which 18 months were prior to and 18 months were after the Medicaid expansion in Michigan.  

While the nonexpansion state of Virginia showed no major changes in patient outcome, among Michigan Medicaid patients the risk of developing a severe complication postoperatively after receiving heart-related services dropped 30% in the months after Michigan expanded its Medicaid program.

The final overall numbers in the national study by Khatana and his fellow researchers showed that deaths due to a cardiovascular reason between 2010 and 2016 went up from 141.9 to a mere 142 in states that expanded Medicaid vs. rising from 176.1 to 180.6 in those not expanding Medicaid per 100,000 residents. 

This shows that less than one death happened on average per 100,000 people in those years in covered states vs. four deaths per 100,000 in noncovered states. 

The bottom line is that Medicaid expansion appears to be working in the quest to help save lives both here in Michigan as well as in other states that adopted expanded Medicaid coverage. 



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