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45,000 People Die Annually From Lack Of Insurance Study Finds

Posted by Jane Akre
Friday, September 18, 2009 11:34 AM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Tort Reform, Health Care Reform, Big Insurance, Remote Area Medical, Uninsured, Underinsured

Uninsured Americans face an increase in the risk of dying by 40 percent, says a new study.

44,789 Deaths


IMAGE SOURCE: Los Angeles Times Web site/ waiting outside the Forum before dawn

Simply lacking health insurance can raise the risk of dying by 40 percent.

It may sound obvious that people with health insurance have a better outcome if they are sick, but the new study, published online Wednesday in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH), says the lack of insurance appeared to be a factor in the 2005 deaths of as many as 45,000 people.

The participants, 9,000 adults of working age, were all enrolled in the federal Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, reports ABC News. Dr. Andrew Wilper, of the Cambridge Health Alliance conducted the survey.

During the years 1986 through 1994, information about their insurance status was incorporated into questions about health, income, and education.

By the year 2000, three percent of the participants had died.

After adjusting for factors such as smoking and obesity, alcohol and exercise, and excluding those on Medicare or Medicaid, the researchers came to the conclusion that 40 percent were more likely to die without a private insurance plan. That is an increase from the 25 percent excess death rate found in 1993.

The researchers then applied that finding to U.S. census data. "We calculated approximately 44,789 deaths among working-age Americans in 2005 associated with the lack of insurance," write the researchers, who included Andrew Wilper, MD, MPH told Web MD.

Researchers found that the uninsured were more likely to go without medical care when they need it, and are more likely, when they finally seek a doctor, to go to the emergency room, the most expensive and sometimes least effective medical care one can receive.

Deaths from a lack of insurance now exceed those caused by many common illnesses such as kidney disease.

The authors also believe that alternatives to insurance, such as community health centers, are not as effective against fatal medical conditions as private insurance.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has determined that 18,000 people die every year between the ages of 25 and 64 because of a lack of health insurance.

Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, study co-author, and a professor of medicine at Harvard and a primary care physician in Cambridge, Mass., noted: "Historically, every other developed nation has achieved universal health care through some form of nonprofit national health insurance. Our failure to do so means that all Americans pay higher health care costs, and 45,000 pay with their lives."

Dr. David Himmelstein, study co-author, also at Harvard says that one American dies every 30 minutes from a lack of health insurance, if you believe the IOM study. “Even this grim figure is an underestimate - now one dies every 12 minutes."

To Fill The Need

Remote Area Medical (RAM) has been delivering free health care to the uninsured across the country. Thousands show up before dawn to be seen.

In August, thousands of uninsured Americans showed up before dawn to receive a free health care at The Forum in Inglewood, California where volunteer doctors, dentists, nurses, and optometrists, work through the nonprofit group, to serve the uninsured and underinsured around the country.

Originally set up to serve the health care needs of Latin America, Knoxville, Tennessee-based, RAM, has found the need at home just as pressing.

With an estimated 46 million Americans uninsured, the question is how to cover more. Among the insurance plans offered, the leading Senate plan offered by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont), would cover about 90 percent of uninsured Americans.

The public plan would cover everyone and is the center of President Obama’s health care reform proposals which he told students in Baltimore Thursday are the ‘defining struggle of this generation.”

But the insurance industry lobby, America’s Health Insurance Plans, an umbrella group for a number of U.S. health insurers, says that a public health plan would “dismantle employer-based coverage, significantly increase costs for those who remain in private coverage, and add additional liabilities to the federal budget.”

Member groups include Aetna Inc, Humana Inc., Cigna Corp., and UnitedHealth Group.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association also doubts a government plan can play on a level playing field with private insurers. #


Posted by Wayne Parsons
Friday, September 18, 2009 4:00 PM EST

This is a great article and makes me realize how important this health care bill can be. Great work Jane!

Anonymous User
Posted by thecomment
Friday, September 18, 2009 4:43 PM EST

I would like to see research on how many people become disabled, unproductive, and thrown back on social services because of lack of health insurance. I have a genetic disorder that eventually causes legal blindness. I have no health insurance, and I've started to get serious distortions and spots in my vision. I will probably be legally blind within a year or so. Then either I will be using up social service resources or I will be thrown out on the street to die somewhere. Where are the studies focusing on preventable disability?

Posted by Jane Akre
Friday, September 18, 2009 6:40 PM EST


If you care to share - have you exhausted possibilities such as asking a specialist to treat you without charging you (please don't laugh, many attorneys work for free, a service they can't exactly advertise) ..... or determining what drug you need with your doctor's help and requesting it free of charge from the drug company?

Posted by John Lloyd Scharf
Thursday, November 05, 2009 11:32 AM EST

If health care is the problem, insurance is not the cause and government is not the answer.
Of those "50 million," that lack insurance there were 45,000 who died without health care.
WITH health care, 98,000 died FROM health care because of malpractice.
The question is do we want to trust that largest corporation in the world, the U.S. Government. Do not expect house calls anytime soon.
We have seen how well the government delivers on its promises and its bureaucracies pursue the money without giving us benefits on so many levels.
Imagine another 111 bureacracies that only ultimately must listen to the Secretary of the Treasury - another "service" of which is the IRS.
That blog of mine above has several .pdf connections (HR. 3962 and two summaries, a few videos, and page references for new taxes and other mandates).
If you cannot use the link, google "Progressive Capitalist H.R. 3962."
If you believe the promises of this bill, you have to deal with the lie that it fosters competition with a government option called the "Public Option" and establishes the government as a monopoly making its own rules. Don't worry. You'll run out of "rich" soon enough.
We have at least a $12 trillion economy of which at least $1.8 trillion is spent on health care.
If you read the bill, there are plenty of opportunities to soak the middle class, if you do not mind the 1.6 million made jobless.
REPUBLICAN Affordable Health Care For America Act
MAKING HEALTH Care Affordable For EVERY AmeriCAN

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