Affordable Care Act Contributed To Saving Around 50,000 Lives

Washington Post Fact Checker Glenn Kessler is often very quick to give out those Pinocchios, often hitting Obama when statements have exceptions which go beyond what would be expected to be included in a political speech. Therefore I was pleased to see that he gave a rare Geppetto Checkmark for Obama’s statement on the 5th anniversary of The Affordable Care Act that the ACE is “a major reason why we’ve seen 50,000 fewer preventable patient deaths in hospitals.”

I agree with Kessler’s overall view that The Affordable Care act has contributed to a decrease in preventable deaths from factors such as drug reactions and pressure ulcers and that other factors, some pre-dating the ACA, were also important. As Kessler wrote:

But officials say there is also little question that the half-billion dollars in ACA funding sparked significantly greater cooperation among thousands of hospitals. On pressure ulcers and adverse drug reactions, “we already had practices that we knew had worked,” another official said, but the Partnership for Patients took it to the next level by involving thousands of hospitals in a concerted effort to promote those practices. The law also created the CMS Innovation Center, which tests new ideas at participating hospitals for delivering better service without increasing costs.

HHS reports say more than 70 percent of general acute care hospitals in the United States, representing over 80 percent of admissions, were part of the networks in 2012-2013. The study showed year after year gains in preventing patient deaths, with 35,000 coming in 2013 alone. (One caveat: The figure for 2013 is considered an “interim number,” with the final figure not available until June, 2015.)

The upward trajectory suggests tens of thousands in additional patient lives may have been saved since 2013.

The president’s statement could have been a bit more precisely worded to reflect some of the uncertainty in the estimate: “likely a major reason why we’ve seen an estimated 50,000 fewer preventable patient deaths in hospitals.”

But that’s a relatively minor quibble. The numbers might seem large, but the research seems solid, according to experts we consulted, and it is based on a review of an extensive database. The results likely reflect work that predated the ACA but at the same time the ACA has spurred even greater cooperation among hospitals. Since the president is using a figure more than a year old, it is likely understated — unless, of course, the interim number for 2013 turns out to be overstated. We will keep a watch on that.

But in the meantime, the president’s claim appears worthy of the elusive Geppetto Checkmark.

Plus these numbers don’t include lives saved due to people who would otherwise be uninsured now receiving insurance.

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