Lack-of-Insurance Deaths on the Rise
by Charles Lemos, Fri Feb 26, 2010 at 11:41:54 PM EST
A new study from Families USA finds the number of deaths attributable to a lack of health insurance is on the rise as more and more Americans lose their health insurance. While a 2000 study by the Institute of Medicine estimated that 18,000 people and a 2006 Urban Institute study found that 22,500 people were dying on annual basis due to the lack of health insurance, the Families USA, a liberal healthcare advocacy group, puts the number at 27,500.
From the New York Times:
“This is only the tip of the iceberg, and the most severe consequence, which is death,” said Kathleen Stoll, director of health policy at Families USA. In addition, thousands of other citizens, perhaps millions, are experiencing a reduction in the quality of their lives and their health because they lack insurance, she said.
Not surprisingly, many of the states with the largest number of projected premature deaths also have the largest populations. The top 12 states, in order of estimated premature deaths, are: California (34,600), Texas (31,700), Florida (25,400), New York (13,900), Georgia (11,500), North Carolina (9,600), Illinois (9,400), Ohio (8,900), Louisiana (7,700), Michigan (7,600), Pennsylvania (7,500) and Tennessee (7,500).
In 2008, roughly 46 million people in the United States lacked health insurance, according to the Census Bureau. The new report estimates that currently 68 adults under age 65 die every day because they don’t have coverage. Absent a significant change in coverage, the figure will climb to 84 by 2019, the study projects.
A growing body of research has explored the connection between a lack of health insurance and an increased risk of death. Uninsured people are more likely to skip screenings and other preventive care, so their medical problems are often diagnosed later, when they are more advanced and tougher to treat. The uninsured are also more likely to skimp on necessary medical care, whether it’s prescription drugs to keep their blood pressure in check or surgery to clear up clogged arteries.
“The bottom line is that if you don’t get a disease picked up early and you don’t get necessary treatment, you’re more likely to die,” said Stan Dorn, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute and the author of the organization’s earlier study.
Experts say that the new study’s estimates of premature death likely err on the conservative side. The report calculated that lack of insurance increased mortality rates by 25 percent. But research conducted using more recent data found that not having insurance increases death rates by 40 percent.
The other impact that is likely to come from our current healthcare is a rise in premature deaths. We may have the first generation of Americans to have on average shorter lifespans the preceding one. If that's not a sign of a society in reverse, I don't know what is.