Harvard researchers published Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health a study which reveals roughly 45,000 American adults die every year because they are not covered by health insurance.
Researchers specifically noted that lack of health insurance now kills more adults than kidney disease.
Lead author Dr. Andrew Wilper, who worked at Harvard Medical School when the study was done and who now teaches at the University of Washington Medical School, said, “The uninsured have a higher risk of death when compared to the privately insured, even after taking into account socioeconomics, health behaviors and baseline health. We doctors have many new ways to prevent deaths from hypertension, diabetes and heart disease – but only if patients can get into our offices and afford their medications.”
The study, which analyzed data from national surveys carried out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), assessed death rates after taking education, income and many other factors including smoking, drinking and obesity into account. It estimated that lack of health insurance causes 44,789 excess deaths annually.
Previous estimates from the IOM and others had put that figure near 18,000. The methods used in the current study were similar to those employed by the IOM in 2002, which in turn were based on a pioneering 1993 study of health insurance and mortality.
During a Thursday rally, President Barack Obama promised a University of Maryland crowd, “Because you voted for change in November, we’re going to bring change.”
The United States was “on the cusp” of fulfilling the promise of easier access to higher education, which is very costly, and of changing the health care system, which Obama said was a defining issue for the current generation.
“One in three adults who don’t have health insurance live one accident away from bankruptcy,” the president said, his speech regularly interrupted by deafening cheers and at one point by a lone heckler, who shouted “child killer” as Obama began his speech.
The president never broke his stride, and the heckler was quickly ushered out of the stadium by security guards.
The rally was the latest sign that Obama is now hitting back hard at opponents to his proposed reforms who hogged the media spotlight last month by disrupting town hall meetings held to explain and promote the president’s vision for change.
It was also a bid by Obama’s behind-the-scenes team, whose near flawless handling of his campaign took him from the bottom rungs of the US Senate to the White House, to boost the president’s popularity ratings.
Obama’s poll numbers have fallen over the past few months as politicians dickered over health care and the public reacted to what it saw as excessive government spending.
“It’s time to put our shoulders to the wheel of history,” Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, acting as a warm-up man for the president, told the exuberant crowd inside the University of Maryland’s 20,000-seat basketball stadium before Obama arrived.
“We are closer than ever before to building a health care system that America can be proud of. We cannot let this opportunity slip by,” he said as the crowd whooped and cheered.
— Stephen C. Webster