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Does Medicare Save Lives?

  • David Card

    (University of California, Berkeley.)

  • Carlos Dobkin

    (University of California, Santa Cruz.)

  • Nicole Maestas

    (RAND Corporation.)

Health insurance characteristics shift at age 65 as most people become eligible for Medicare. We measure the impacts of these changes on patients who are admitted to hospitals through emergency departments for conditions with similar admission rates on weekdays and weekends. The age profiles of admissions and comorbidities for these patients are smooth at age 65, suggesting that the severity of illness is similar on either side of the Medicare threshold. In contrast, the number of procedures performed in hospitals and total list charges exhibit small but statistically significant discontinuities, implying that patients over 65 receive more services. We estimate a nearly 1-percentage-point drop in 7-day mortality for patients at age 65, equivalent to a 20% reduction in deaths for this severely ill patient group. The mortality gap persists for at least 9 months after admission. (c) 2009 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology..

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Article provided by MIT Press in its journal Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 124 (2009)
Issue (Month): 2 (May)
Pages: 597-636

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:qjecon:v:124:y:2009:i:2:p:597-636
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  1. Guido Imbens & Thomas Lemieux, 2007. "Regression Discontinuity Designs: A Guide to Practice," NBER Working Papers 13039, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. David Card & Carlos Dobkin & Nicole Maestas, 2004. "The Impact of Nearly Universal Insurance Coverage on Health Care Utilization and Health: Evidence from Medicare," NBER Working Papers 10365, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  11. Lichtenberg Frank R., 2002. "The Effects of Medicare on Health Care Utilization and Outcomes," Forum for Health Economics & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 5(1), pages 1-29, January.
  12. David Card & Carlos Dobkin & Nicole Maestas, 2008. "The Impact of Nearly Universal Insurance Coverage on Health Care Utilization: Evidence from Medicare," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(5), pages 2242-58, December.
  13. Amy Finkelstein & Robin McKnight, 2005. "What Did Medicare Do (And Was It Worth It)?," NBER Working Papers 11609, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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