Jul 12, 2022 - Health

"Excess" pandemic deaths linked to insurance status

Illustration of a person looking over the edge of a large cliff chasm shaped like a medical cross
Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

States with high uninsured rates saw more "excess deaths" during the pandemic that weren't attributed to the virus but stemmed from reasons like meagre care in overwhelmed hospitals, the White House Council of Economic Advisors writes in a new issue brief.

Why it matters: It's the latest evidence concluding the pandemic indirectly killed millions of people because of its effect on health systems and society in general.

Findings: The CEA estimated a 10 percentage point increase in the pre-pandemic uninsured rate was associated with a 4.8 percentage point increase in excess mortality.

  • Excess mortality differed significantly across states between March 2020 and March 2022, from a low of 5.7 percent in Hawaii to a high of 27.4 percent in Arizona.
  • Uninsured people experience generally poorer health, which could make them more vulnerable to severe illness.

Flashback: The CDC has estimated that excess deaths between the weeks ending March 7, 2020 and March 5, 2022 totaled 1.1 million, or 15 percent more than the 958,864 official death toll from COVID-19 over that period.

Yes, but: There were other factors influencing excess deaths, such as regional vaccination rates and individual behaviors, such as masking and social distancing.

Look ahead: Sobering data on pandemic deaths will factor in looming debates about health coverage, including whether to extend enhanced Affordable Care Act subsidies.

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