Friday, September 18, 2009

News of the Painfully Obvious: 'Uninsured More Likely to Die'

No, this is not a headline from The Onion.

ABC News has discovered that people who have no health insurance are more likely to die than those who have it.

After adjusting for factors such as obesity, exercise habits, alcohol use, and smoking status, researchers determined those without insurance were 40 percent more likely to die than those with a private insurance plan.

Researchers excluded those on Medicare or Medicaid from their analyses.

Among the other factors that increased the risk of death were clinically-verified poor health (222 percent), smoking (102 percent), being a former smoker (42 percent), and being a male (40 percent).

So, while other factors clearly make a person more likely to die, the new finding suggests that being uninsured is more hazardous to the health than previously thought.

In fact, the risk factor is 2.5 times higher than a 2002 estimate from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), which that suggested about 18,000 people between the ages of 25 and 64 die per year because of lack of health insurance.
But wait! The Republicans tell us that everybody has health care. If you don't have insurance, you can go to the emergency room. Problem solved, right?

Not so much.

Also, uninsured people are more likely to use emergency rooms, indicating that a decision not to treat a preventable illness might stem from not having insurance.

The IOM has said that having insurance improves health because it allows people to get medical care when they need it, to have a regular source of care, and to have continuity of coverage.

The authors also said the increased risk of death attributable to lack of insurance suggests that alternative measures of medical care for uninsured people, such as community health centers, do not protect against fatal medical issues as effectively as private health insurance.

"Despite widespread acknowledgment that enacting universal coverage would be life saving, doing so remains politically thorny," the study authors said. "Now that health reform is again on the political agenda, health professionals have the opportunity to advocate universal coverage."
Medicare for all. Now.