If every Texas student in the class of 2005-2006 graduates from high school, the state could save $1.6 billion in lifetime health costs, according to conservative calculations by the Alliance for Excellent Education in its new brief, Healthier and Wealthier: Decreasing Health Care Costs by Increasing Educational Attainment, funded by MetLife Foundation.
Since healthcare costs are highest for the least educated, the Alliance calculated state savings by combining the lifetime costs of Medicaid and expenditures for uninsured care, then multiplying this total by the number of students who drop out of Texas's high schools. If these students were to graduate instead, the state would realize a significant benefit.
Healthier and Wealthier argues that higher educational attainment improves a student's future income, occupational status, and social prestige, all of which contributes to improved individual health. The brief cites several reasons why, including the fact that Americans with higher educational attainment have more insurance coverage, individuals who lack health insurance receive less medical care and have poorer health outcomes, and lower education levels generally lead to occupations with greater health hazards.
"This study shows clearly that providing quality education not only improves students' lives, but also saves taxpayers dollars," said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. "A high school diploma opens the door to physical health as well as financial health."
"High dropout rates and low educational attainment result in financial and social costs for state and federal budgets," said Sibyl Jacobson, president of MetLife Foundation. "Education promotes economic freedom and inspires a lifetime of knowledge acquisition, and for those reasons, is pivotal to all of the initiatives the Foundation supports."
Healthier and Wealthier: Decreasing Health Care Costs by Increasing Educational Attainment is available at http://www.all4ed.org/publications/HandW.pdf. Costs for Medicaid and for uninsured care based on education levels were calculated for the brief by Peter Muennig, Assistant Professor at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, using data from the 2003 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, 2004 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and 2005 Thorpe.
Note: The Alliance for Excellent Education is a Washington-based policy, research, and advocacy organization that works to make every child a graduate, prepared for postsecondary education and success in life.