Friday, September 18, 2009

45,000 deaths a year linked to lack of insurance

Imagine a country where every eleven minutes, a person dies from lack of access to health care. Must be a pretty tough place, right? Entrenched poverty, lack of opportunity, and probably run by an elite who are not too concerned about the people.

Well, America, take a look out the window, because you're living there, according to a study forthcoming in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Public Health, which ties lack of insurance to the deaths of approximately 44,789 Americans between the ages of 18 and 64 each year. The paper is available at the Physicians for a National Health Program site, and was authored by Andrew P. Wilper MD MPH, Steffie Woolhandler MD MPH, Karen E. Lasser MD MPH, Danny McCormick MD MPH, David H. Bor MD, and David U. Himmelstein MD.

Their paper notes that many previous studies have found a link between uninsurance and mortality. Most recently an Institute of Medicine study that estimated some 18,000 people a year between the ages of 25 and 64 who die annually because of lack of insurance, which is the number that most often comes up on the left. But the 18,000 figure was based on data from a study now more than 20 years old, and both medicine and demographics have changed since then.

Demographically, uninsured individuals have had a harder time finding care, as financial support for public hospitals has withered. These institutions provided a resource for the treatment of chronic conditions, and while treatment options for many diseases have improved in the past two decades, its the insured who can take advantage of them.

At this point, we ask why, if there is such a demonstrable link between lack of access to care and unnecessary death, what kind of person would not want to institute a health care system where "everybody's in, nobody's out"? The answer: a corporate person, the kind that's able to influence-peddle the decision makers, but who has no concern whatsoever for human life. And to the extent that real people--pundits, politicians, executives and citizens--resemble the corporations they work for, they're just as implicit in these unnecessary deaths.

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