A New Study Links 45,000 Deaths A Year To Lack Of Insurance

Researchers find that 45,000 deaths a year can be linked to the lack of health insurance. But, some question the study's merits.

CBS News reports that the study was conducted by a team "that tracked more than 9,000 people for up to 13 years, comparing the health of those with insurance to those without. After factoring in education and income, smoking, drinking and obesity, researchers found that the uninsured had about a 40 percent higher risk of death, linking 45,000 American deaths a year to lack of insurance. In 1993 it was 25 percent" (Axelrod, 9/17).

Atlanta Journal Constitution/Health Day News reports, "The study comes at a pivotal moment in history, as Congress considers legislation to expand health insurance coverage. The findings imply that lack of health insurance isn't just a policy issue, it's a significant health risk. ... The research replicates a 1993 Institute of Medicine (IOM) study, which found a 25 percent higher death risk among the uninsured compared with privately insured adults" (9/17).

MSNBC/Reuters reports, "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. ... Part of the increased risk now is due to the growing ranks of the uninsured, [David] Himmelstein said. ... Another factor is that there are fewer places for the uninsured to get good care. ... 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 ... 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" (9/17).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.