Have the 2020 CARES Act and other government aid provisions done much to mitigate the economic pain that you address in the paper?
As mentioned before, we use past data to try to predict what will happen in the future. Based on 1950-2017 data, we estimate the historical relation between unemployment, life expectancy, and mortality. Then, we back out the COVID-19 unemployment shock given the structure and project excess deaths based on the estimated “historical relation.” It is possible that ACA will reduce the impact of economic distress on mortality rates. However, there are other factors (like fear of contagion) that work in the opposite direction. And we do not have enough data to understand how much all these factors will modify the final outcome.
As you observe in the study, this is the first major American recession since the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Have ACA programs provided much of a safety net for the people feeling the worst effects of the unemployment spike? That is, would your projections of the death rate have been worse if the ACA didn’t exist?
It is too early to say. Several studies have reported a reduction in preventive care and health interventions not related to COVID. Thus, unfortunately, we do not believe that ACA by itself can fully solve the problem.
We’re not out of the woods yet with the pandemic. Do you foresee possibly having to revise your projections of the death rate if the crisis drags on for another year or so? That is, revise upward?
Yes, if unemployment were to increase again, we would have to revise our projections upward. I hope that there will not be the need of doing so. We are already very concerned about the current outlook.