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How Many People Are Likely To Die Due To Lack of Health Coverage

Armen Hareyan's picture

State-by-State Reports Reveal Why Health Insurance Matters as a Life-and-Death Issue

In 2002, a groundbreaking national study by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences demonstrated the direct link between a lack of affordable health insurance coverage and deaths from health-related causes. Drawing on that study, Families USA, the national organization for health care consumers, has today made available reports for all 50 states that show how many people are expected to die in each state each week because they don't have health coverage. A separate report is also available for the District of Columbia.

The individual reports, available on the Families USA Web site, provide eye-opening numbers for every state. Among the figures cited is the fact that more than seven working-age Texans die each day due to a lack of health insurance. Other reports reveal that, on average, approximately 960 people in Illinois died in 2006 because they had no health coverage, and nearly 9,900 uninsured New Yorkers between the ages of 25 and 64 died in the years 2000 to 2006.

"Our report highlights how our inadequate system of health coverage condemns a great number of people to an early death simply because they don't have the same access to health care as their insured neighbors," Ron Pollack, Executive Director of Families USA, said today. "The conclusions are sadly clear--a lack of health coverage is a matter of life and death for many people.

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"Health insurance really matters in how people make their health care decisions," Pollack said. "We know that people without insurance often forgo checkups, screenings, and other preventive care."

As a result, he said, uninsured adults are more likely to be diagnosed with a disease, such as cancer, in an advanced stage, which greatly reduces their chance of survival. The Institute of Medicine found that uninsured adults are 25 percent more likely to die prematurely than adults with private health insurance.

Another recent academic study found that uninsured adults between the ages of 55 and 64 are even more likely to die prematurely. For this group, a lack of health insurance is the third leading cause of death, following heart disease and cancer.

In its 2002 report, the Institute of Medicine estimated that 18,000 adults nationwide died in 2000 because they did not have health insurance. That estimate was later updated by the Urban Institute, which reported that at least 22,000 adults died in 2006 due to a lack of health insurance.

Although 50 state reports were released by Families USA today, Pollack cautioned against trying to make state-to-state comparisons. The variables of population size, mortality rates, and uninsured rates for people ages 25-64 have made each state report unique.

"We never sought to say one state is 'better or worse' than another in terms of these mortality statistics," Pollack said. "Instead, we have sought to make these tragic numbers more meaningful by making them as local as possible and by indicating how frequently these deaths may occur. State-specific reports are the most 'local' we are able to offer with the data available."