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People Really Are Dying in the US October 12, 2009

Posted by Bill in Current Events, health, health care reform.
Tags: , , , ,

There are a lot of people in this country who are opposed to health care reform. They don’t believe it is something the government should be paying for. There can certainly be honest disagreement about what government should and should not pay for.

Personally,  I think it is a crime that in this country, which is one of the richest countries on earth, there are people dying because they cannot afford health care. Our government has plenty of money to bomb the hell out of countries that pose no threat to us. It has plenty of money to provide bail outs to fat cat corporations so they can pay million dollar bonuses. It has plenty of money to pay no bid contracts to Dick Cheney’s ex-employer. But it is willing to let children die because their parents cannot afford to pay for their medical care. I have a problem with that.

Many health care opponents claim that people are not dying in this country due to an inability to pay for health care, however, this claim does not stand up to scrutiny. Here are links to some studies showing how people in the US are dying because they cannot afford health care.

Report by Families USA showing that 1 in 3 Americans is uninsured.

Report from Institute of Medicine

The main findings are that working-age Americans without health insurance have a 25% greater chance of dying and are more likely to:

  • Receive too little medical care and receive it too late;
  • Be sicker and die sooner;
  • Receive poorer care when they are in the hospital even for acute situations like a motor vehicle crash.

A 2009 report from the same organization shows:

For adults without health insurance, the evidence shows:

  • Men and women are much less likely to receive clinical preventive services that have the potential to reduce unnecessary morbidity and premature death.
  • Chronically ill adults delay or forgo visits with physicians and clinically effective therapies, including prescription medications.
  • Adults are more likely to be diagnosed with later-stage cancers that are detectable by screening or by contact with a clinician who can assess worrisome symptoms.
  • Adults are more likely to die from trauma or other serious acute conditions, such as heart attacks or strokes.
  • Adults with cancer, cardiovascular disease (including hypertension, coronary heart disease, and congestive heart failure), stroke, respiratory failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or asthma exacerbation, hip fracture, seizures, and serious injury are more likely to suffer poorer health outcomes, greater limitations in quality of life, and premature death.
  • The evidence also demonstrates that when adults acquire health insurance, many of the negative health effects of uninsurance are mitigated.

Report from the Urban Institute estimating that 137,000 people died from 2000 through 2006 because they lacked health insurance, including 22,000 people in 2006.

A report from Families USA showing that uninsured children are more likely to die when seeking treatment compared to insured children receiving treatment for the same conditions.

Some people are not real comfortable with facts. They prefer anecdotes. So here are some anecdotes that illustrate the problem:

From Frontline

In 1994, Nikki White, a Bristol, Tenn., native with dreams of becoming a doctor, was diagnosed with lupus, a serious but treatable autoimmune disorder. Too ill to work, she lost her health insurance for several years, but then received coverage from the state’s Medicaid program. Soon, budget cuts made her ineligible for the state program. A few months later, White was rushed to the ER with severe lupus complications and racked up nearly $1 million in medical bills. She finally secured insurance under the government HIPPA law, but her condition was too advanced, and in 2006, at the age of 32, she died.

From USA Today:

Scott’s son [Devante Johnson] already had advanced cancer of the kidneys in April 2006 when his Medicaid coverage was cut off.

Scott, who has multiple sclerosis, had qualified for Social Security disability payments that boosted her income above the Medicaid level. She fought for four months before her son’s coverage was resumed.

During that time, Devante was switched from chemotherapy to free clinical trials, and his health deteriorated. By the time his insurance was restored, she says, it was too late to help him.

“I’m unsure if they could have done more for him,” she says. If he had not lost coverage for four months, she says, “he wouldn’t have suffered the way he did.”

and from the same story:

[Alyce] Driver’s son, who lived in Prince George’s County, Maryland, had Medicaid insurance. But she had trouble finding dentists who were willing to accept Medicaid’s reimbursement rate. An abscessed tooth led to a bacterial infection in his brain, and he died Feb. 25.

If you go to this site you’ll find all kinds of ANECDOTAL evidence:

Clearly, those who claim that nobody dies in this country for lack of health insurance are wrong. Those who oppose health insurance are comfortable with that fact. I am not. That is why I support health care reform.



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