Lack-of-Insurance Deaths on the Rise

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.

Salvaged or Savaged?

As I noted earlier I didn't have the chance to watch most of the seven and a half hour long Blair House Healthcare Summit. Given this, I'm going to defer to those who did. A review of opinion follows below the fold.

To an extent, I've been distracted by events in my native Colombia where Alvaro Uribe's re-election bid hangs by a thread and seems likely to be sunk by the Constitutional Court. Come August 7th, Colombia will have a new President and that brings me unending joy. Colombia's highest court will uphold the rule of law by tossing the Presidential referendum on technical grounds - campaign finance laws were broken and Uribe's supporters (it is important to note that Uribe was not directly involved in the re-election bid) violated, perhaps unintentionally but violated nonetheless, a number of other election laws. While I would have preferred the Court to uphold the constitutionality of term limits instead of sidestepping the issue, I expect the Court to firmly declare that elections in Colombia cannot be bought by the highest bidders.  

It's not often that one gets to see two political systems debate such core issues, and somewhat overlapping ones at that (there is also a healthcare debate ongoing), so intensely, closely and simultaneously. Colombia is often termed a "failing" state. I've never bought into that view even as I am fully aware of the serious socio-economic disparities we face and of the grave security threat that such inequality breeds. Though I concede the fragility of the Colombian state, it has been remarkable to witness the growing resolve of Colombians of all walks of life coming together to break the dark cycles of the past half century. And while Colombian democracy has its own pervasive imperfections, it is increasingly vibrant and mature. To turn back Uribe is no small feat.

The US too faces serious socio-economic problems, of a different sort and scope no doubt, but it is the political intractability that should give us the most concern. I've taken the President to task this past fortnight for not being assertive enough in his leadership nor partisan enough in his politics but I think if we could replace Barack Obama say with an FDR or an LBJ, we would still face a political stalemate. The problem, ultimately, isn't the President. I may not agree with him on every single issue or his approach at times but I know he means well and I believe him sincere in his efforts to reach a governing consensus on pressing national issues. 

Achieving that governing consensus, however, may be a hopeless task. The bitter reality is the United States is in danger of becoming a failing state because one party has become so radicalized in its ideology and in its approach to the game of politics that almost any issue becomes so intensely partisan that any compromise is effectively impossible to reach. As long as the GOP views governance as a zero-sum game, the national interest will suffer. Theirs is a scorched America politics. In their unyielding zeal, they are willing to see the nation falter and the American people suffer for what matters to the GOP leadership is serving the interests of an increasingly narrow economic elite.

That the GOP serves the economic interests of an elite few should be more plainly evident but it is to the detriment of the nation that we on the left have not been able to effectively expose them for the oligarchs that they are and the oligarchy that they foster. What are the consequences of Reaganite ideology is a question that we do not often broach but all we need to do is to look at the distribution of wealth and its trend to see that what Reagan wrought was a vast redistribution of wealth upwards for a precious few in an unrelenting war on the American middle classes. 

As of 2007, the top 1 percent of US households owned 34.6 percent of all privately held wealth, and the next 19 percent (the managerial, professional, and small business stratum) had 50.5 percent, which means that just 20 percent of the people hold 85 percent, leaving only 15 percent of the wealth for the bottom 80% (wage and salary workers). In terms of financial wealth (total net worth minus the value of one's home), the top 1 percent of households hold an even greater share: 42.7 percent. Go back to 1979 and you'll find that the top one percent owned just 20.5 percent percent of all privately held wealth. In other words, the share held by the top one percent has expanded by 68.8 percent thanks to the policies set in motion under Ronald Reagan. That transfer of wealth, a near 15 percent share of the nation's wealth, was by design not by chance. It was accomplished by shifting the tax burden from the top 1 percent to the middle classes. 

Wrapped in their mantras of limited government and lower taxes, the GOP too often sways a disturbingly large segment of the US population to vote against their own economic self-interest. They have successfully sold the myth of the free market packaging it with the dubious assertion that all government is inherently inefficient if not evil. But we have failed to accurately convey the cost of limited government and lower taxes to the American people. The double hit from this world view is that we neither have universal healthcare coverage and pay far too much for the coverage that we do have. It's not big government for big government's sake that we are after but effective government of sufficient capability and dexterity to tackle thirty plus years of accumulated avoidance of socio-economic issues that can no longer be ignored such as our failing healthcare system.

There's more...

Blair House Healthcare Summit Open Thread

I was only able to catch the last 90 minutes or so of the healthcare summit held today at the Blair House.

A few quick thoughts: The President excels in these types of forums and he excelled today. The GOP pretty much stuck to their mantra of let's start from stratch. The paucity of their ideas was self-evident. I thought Speaker Pelosi was brilliant in her closing remarks calling to task both Minority Leader Boehner and Congressman Dave Camp of Michigan for their abuse of facts.

Here's an open thread. What were your impressions? Who rocked and who did not?



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