Incidence of cardiac arrest dropped under ACA

A new study shows the incidence of cardiac arrest dropped “significantly” under the Affordable Care Act.

The incidence of sudden cardiac arrest declined among previously uninsured, middle-aged adults who acquired health insurance through the ACA, according to the study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Most of the adults in the study gained insurance through the Medicaid expansion. The analysis was based on emergency medical services in Multnomah County, Ore., before and after the insurance expansion.

Among previously uninsured adults ages 45 to 64, the incidence of cardiac arrest – an often deadly loss of heart function – decreased by 17 percent. The incidence remained the same among older adults, a group that had high rates of coverage before and after the ACA, thanks to Medicare.

“Cardiac arrest is a devastating and under-recognized cause of premature death for both men and women age 45 and older,” said Dr. Eric Stecker, associate professor of cardiology at Oregon Health & Science University’s Knight Cardiovascular Institute and the study’s lead author, in a news release. “Health insurance allows people to engage in regular medical care, which is crucial for the prevention of cardiovascular disease and the diagnosis and treatment of conditions that can cause cardiac arrest.”

Sudden cardiac arrest is an electrical disturbance in the heart rhythm that causes the heart to stop beating. (Unlike a heart attack, which is when a major artery leading to the heart becomes clogged, disrupting blood flow to the heart.)

Each year, more than 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in the U.S. Patients may have little to no warning, and the disorder usually causes instantaneous death, according to OHSU.

While the study shows a strong association between health insurance and lower rates of cardiac arrest, it doesn’t prove cause and effect, the authors said.

Marissa Harshman

Marissa Harshman

I'm the health reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. I started at The Columbian -- my hometown newspaper -- in September 2009. Reach me at or 360-735-4546.

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