[THS] Study links 45, 000 U.S. deaths per year to lack of insurance
vignes at wanadoo.fr
Sun Sep 20 16:26:53 CEST 2009
Study links 45,000 U.S. deaths to lack of insurance
By Susan Heavey
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Nearly 45,000 people die in the United States each year --
one every 12 minutes -- in large part because they lack health insurance and cannot
get good care, Harvard Medical School researchers found in an analysis released on
"We're losing more Americans every day because of inaction ... than [through] drunk
driving and homicide combined," Dr. David Himmelstein, a co-author of the study
and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard, said in an interview with Reuters.
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 findings come amid a fierce debate over Democrats' efforts to reform the
nation's $2.5 trillion U.S. healthcare industry by expanding coverage and reducing
President Barack Obama has made the overhaul a top domestic policy priority, but his
plan has been besieged by critics and slowed by intense political battles in Congress,
with the insurance and healthcare industries fighting some parts of the plan.
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
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
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.
Some critics called the study flawed.
The National Center for Policy Analysis, a Washington think tank that backs a free-
market approach to health care, said researchers overstated the death risk and did
not track how long subjects were uninsured.
Woolhandler said that while Physicians for a National Health Program supports
government-backed coverage, the Harvard study's six researchers closely followed
the methodology used in the 1993 study conducted by researchers in the federal
government as well as the University of Rochester in New York.
The Harvard researchers analyzed data on about 9,000 patients tracked by the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics
through the year 2000. They excluded older Americans because those aged 65 or
older are covered by the U.S. Medicare insurance program.
"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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