Monday, September 21, 2009

45,000 Deaths a Year Linked to Lack of Health Insurance

45 to 50 million Americans are uninsured. That's a big number and hard to get one's mind around it. A recent study from Harvard Medical School turns this number into a tragic and sadly logical reality:

45,000 people die each year in the US because of lack of health insurance coverage.

I usually don't blog about health policy, but this study was so stunning, I had to write about it. Not only does lack of health insurance contribute to 45000 individual deaths, but one has to wonder -- as a result of this tragedy, how many couples and families are destroyed?

Here's an excerpt from an article in the New York Times by Reed Abelson:

"Researchers from Harvard Medical School say the lack of coverage can be tied to about 45,000 deaths a year in the United States — a toll that is greater than the number of people who die each year from kidney disease.

“If you extend coverage, you can save lives,” said Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, a professor of medicine at Harvard who is one of the study’s authors. The research is being published in the December issue of the American Journal of Public Health and was posted online Thursday.

The Harvard study found that people without health insurance had a 40 percent higher risk of death than those with private health insurance — as a result of being unable to obtain necessary medical care. The risk appears to have increased since 1993, when a similar study found the risk of death was 25 percent greater for the uninsured.

The increase in risk, according to the study, is likely to be a result of at least two factors. One is the greater difficulty the uninsured have today in finding care, as public hospitals have closed or cut back on services. The other is improvements in medical care for insured people with treatable chronic conditions like high blood pressure.

“As health care for the insured gets better, the gap between the insured and uninsured widens,” Dr. Woolhandler said.


Here's a link to the actual report:
Health Insurance and Mortality in US Adults

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