Sunday, September 20, 2009

Harvard Medical School Study: 45,000 Americans Die Annually Due To Lack Of Insurance

Let's add one more statistic to the those I've repeatedly cited about the numbers who are uninsured and who declare bankruptcy as a result of our disastrous health care system. Harvard Medical School researchers recently released a study stating that 45,000 Americans die each year because they lack health insurance. The report states that our health care problem has gotten progressively worse:

Nearly 45,000 people die in the United States each year -- one every 12 minutes -- in large part because they lack health insurance and can not get good care, Harvard Medical School researchers found in an analysis released on Thursday.

...Overall, researchers said American adults age 64 and younger who lack health insurance have a 40 percent higher risk of death than those who have coverage.

...The Harvard study, funded by a federal research grant, was published in the online edition of the American Journal of Public Health. It was released by Physicians for a National Health Program, which favors government-backed or "single-payer" health insurance.

An similar study in 1993 found those without insurance had a 25 percent greater risk of death, according to the Harvard group. The Institute of Medicine later used that data in its 2002 estimate showing about 18,000 people a year died because they lacked coverage.

Part of the increased risk now is due to the growing ranks of the uninsured, Himmelstein said. Roughly 46.3 million people in the United States lacked coverage in 2008, the U.S. Census Bureau reported last week, up from 45.7 million in 2007.

Another factor is that there are fewer places for the uninsured to get good care. Public hospitals and clinics are shuttering or scaling back across the country in cities like New Orleans, Detroit and others, he said.

Study co-author Dr. Steffie Woolhandler said the findings show that without proper care, uninsured people are more likely to die from complications associated with preventable diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

Dr. Woolhandler applied the type of common sense that was completely obscured this summer as a result of right-wing mob disruptions at town hall meetings:

"For any doctor ... it's completely a no-brainer that people who can't get health care are going to die more from the kinds of things that health care is supposed to prevent," said Woolhandler, a professor of medicine at Harvard and a primary care physician in Cambridge, Massachusetts

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