Inside the Beltway, it's easy to forget that the fate of the Affordable Care Act is a question of life and death.
If President Trump and the Republican-majority Congress repeal or destroy the law without replacing it, people will die. But getting a firm number on exactly how many deaths an ACA repeal would lead to is surprisingly contentious.
Right now we don't have any direct evidence of Obamacare's impact on mortality, since it takes a long time for changes in things like health insurance to show up in death statistics and the law was only enacted in 2009. (Studies looking at whether the ACA improved people's health status and access to health care have had positive results, which suggests it should increase longevity.)
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We do have something else though: many different studies on the impact of health insurance on mortality before Obamacare was in the picture. Since the US is unique among wealthy nations in that it doesn't provide universal health coverage for its citizens, estimating the tollof this failing is an obsession among health economists. But all these studies come to different conclusions, which opens the door for wild speculation about how much death an Obamacare repeal could lead to.
There is a better way. By focusing on the strongest of these health insurance and mortality studies, we can come to some pretty clear estimates — and throw out some of the claims people make that are based on shaky science. The best research out there suggests the very high and very low numbers you're reading are probably wrong.
Here's a quick tally of the most often cited research in this debate, which studies to trust, and what they reveal about life, death, and health insurance.