Friday, September 18, 2009

Harvard Medical Center Study: Approx. 45,000 Die Each Year Due to Lack of Health Insurance

Harvard Medical Center has released a study that finds that almost 45,000 people die each year (in large part) because they lack health insurance. From Reuters:

"We're losing more Americans every day because of inaction ... than drunk driving and homicide combined," Dr. David Himmelstein, a co-author of the study and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard, said in an interview with Reuters.

Overall, researchers said American adults age 64 and younger who lack health insurance have a 40 percent higher risk of death than those who have coverage.


Roughly 46.3 million people in the United States lacked coverage in 2008, the U.S. Census Bureau reported last week, up from 45.7 million in 2007.

Another factor is that there are fewer places for the uninsured to get good care. Public hospitals and clinics are shuttering or scaling back across the country in cities like New Orleans, Detroit and others, he said.

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.

I think almost everyone would agree that this is not an acceptable statistic for a country like the United States. Studies like these underscore why there is such an urgent need for meaningful health care reform. As the system currently exists, massive health care interests and drug companies are making record profits while millions of Americans lack the means to get basic health care coverage that would allow for earlier detection of diseases and other ailments.

I say "meaningful reform" because there are some current proposals on the table that are more interested in compromising adequate health care for citizens while allowing corporate interests to maintain their large profit margins. Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus - (D-MT) released his Committee's long-anticipated bill earlier this week. Baucus insisted on keeping negotiations on the bill between his Committee's so-called "Gang of Six"(three Republicans and three Democrats) in order to produce a bill that could gain bipartisan support. The result? A "bipartisan" bill that no Republicans are supporting and that many others are finding fault with as well.


Republicans don't like it because... it's a health care bill. Democrats don't like it because... it's a bad health care bill designed to kowtow to Republicans who won't even vote for it. Health care advocacy groups don't like it because it "would give a government-subsidized monopoly to the private insurance industry to sell their most profitable plans - high-deductible insurance - without having to face competition from a public health insurer." A good reason not to like it! And unions don't like it because there's no employer mandate and it would "tax health plans."

Wendell Potter, former Communications Vice President for Cigna Health Insurance, was before House Steering and Policy Committee and he gave his feelings on the Baucus bill:

What motivated Baucus to put out a bill, that Wendell Potter says, should be called "The Insurance Industry Profit Protection and Enhancement Act"? Perhaps motivation comes from the health sector's large campaign donations to Baucus. From OpenSecrets:

According to OpenSecrets's data summarized in a Sunlight Foundation blog post yesterday, five former Baucus aides are presently lobbying on behalf of 27 different organizations with big stakes in the health care debate. These ex-staffers, either as in-house lobbyists or as part of private firms, are serving a comprehensive roster of tier-one insurers, pharmaceutical manufacturers and business advocacy groups such as Humana, Wal-Mart and Procter & Gamble. We've also profiled nearly two-dozen Baucus staffers that have gone through the "revolving door," which ranks his office as the No. 7 slot on the most action between service in Congress and the lucrative private sector.


Baucus has received more than $2.8 million from the health sector since 1989. Only individuals and PACs affiliated with the finance, insurance and real estate sector have given him more. Seven of Baucus' top donors over the past five years are part of the health care industry, including four insurers. Critics of the "public option" argue that government-delivered health care will threaten private insurers and drug makers. Last fall, Montana voters re-elected Baucus at a nearly 3-1 margin against perennial candidate Bob Kelleher, a staunch supporter of single payer health care. (Kelleher ran as a Republican for Senate in 2008, although he has previously run for office as a member of the Democratic Party and the Green Party.)

So really, Baucus spent all this time making concessions to the Republicans in order to get bipartisan support and now that the bill has been released, Republicans are saying that it isn't good enough and they are not going to support it.

No more compromises. Baucus' bill is simply inadequate to deal with the problems that this country faces. The public option is the compromise down from a single-payer system. Any type of meaningful reform must work hard to reduce the 45,000 deaths each year due to lack of health insurance and work toward a day when health care will be viewed as a human right.

1 comment:

Grumpy said...

And the beat goes on. Republicans are more concerned with protecting health industry profits than with 45,000 deaths. Sad state of affairs.