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Advocacy group: 26,000 die prematurely without health insurance
June 20th, 2012
12:01 AM ET

Advocacy group: 26,000 die prematurely without health insurance

A national health care consumer advocacy group estimates that three Americans die every hour as a result of not having health insurance.  

According to "Dying for Coverage," the latest report by Families USA, 72 Americans die each day, 500 Americans die every week and approximately Americans 2,175 die each month, due to lack of health insurance.

"The Affordable Care Act was passed by Congress to address an American tragedy and an American shame," said Ron Pollack, Executive Director Families USA. "The fact remains that for the millions of Americans without health coverage, only the Affordable Care offers the promise of access to affordable coverage and to a longer and healthier life." 

Families USA has been a staunch supporter of President Obama's health care reform law.

The report found that the reasons for being uninsured varied, but many of those without health insurance had coverage denied because of pre-existing conditions.  Others have been priced out of the market on the heels of a failing economy - a time when keeping their homes and feeding their families took precedence over holding on to insurance in the face of rising premiums. And some lost their benefits when employers stopped providing coverage.

According to Families USA between 2005 and 2010, premature deaths rose from 20,350 to 26,100.  The total number during that time was 134,120.  Each state is affected, the organization said. Vermont had the fewest deaths with 28 while California had the most - 3,164, according to this report.

The method used to determine how many lives were lost was based on a model developed by the Institute of Medicine in 2002 for their report "Care without Coverage: Too Little, Too Late."  In that report, the IOM found 18,000 adults between 25 and 64 died in 2000 because they didn't have health insurance. 

"For almost 50 million Americans, not having health insurance isn't trivial, or just an inconvenience or a minor budget challenge." Pollack said. "Because of the way we currently provide and charge for health care, many millions of Americans without health coverage are denied regular access to quality care, and many of these people face an unjust sentence of a less healthy life and an earlier death."

Robert Zirkelbach, spokesman for America's Health Insurance Plans, the national trade association that represents the insurance industry said the rising cost of care needs to be addressed.  

"Health plans have long supported reforms to give all Americans the peace of mind and financial security that health care coverage provides. The nation must also address the soaring cost of medical care that is adding a financial burden on families and employers and threatening the long-term sustainability of our vital safety net programs."

But Families USA says the current delivery system is stacked against those without insurance. They pay more for care because they can't negotiate discounted prices on doctor and hospital charges like insurance companies can.  As a result they often don't get preventative care and forgo or delay screenings and necessary medical care.

The report further states that in the past 2 years, uninsured women older than 50 were half as likely as insured women to get mammograms.  Low-income uninsured adults were 5 times less likely to get screened for colon cancer in the past 5 years compared to insured adults.  Cancer patients without insurance are five times more likely to delay or even skip treatment because of the cost.  

In addition, uninsured adults are more often diagnosed with advanced stage disease and they are 25% more likely to die prematurely than those with private insurance.

"The Affordable Care Act lets us wake up from this terrible health care nightmare of premature death," Pollack said. "Wiping out health reform means the nightmare will continue for all Americans."

Forty year old Regina Holliday says having care is a game changer.  She and her husband Frederick were married for almost 16 years.  During most of that time they had no health insurance even though both worked multiple jobs-most of them part time. They had two small children and paid all their medical bills out of pocket.

“Two adults with 2 children and 6 jobs and we couldn’t afford health insurance between the two of us living in D.C.” Regina said. “We didn’t go to the doctor until we were really, really, really sick-couldn’t get out of bed sick.”

Frederick, a college professor, had a urinary tract stricture – a pre-existing condition and yet another barrier to finding affordable coverage.  “Rent and food was just pretty much all of our money every month so when we looked at policies with pre-existing conditions we couldn’t afford that,” said Regina.

In 2008 she got a fulltime job that paid for health insurance but they could not afford the family coverage so only Regina had health care.  Soon thereafter Fred found a full time job teaching. For the first time in years the entire family had coverage. It was around that time that Frederick began to get sick.

He was always tired, lost weight, was in pain. After numerous tests and scans Frederick was diagnosed with stage 4 kidney cancer. It had metastasized to his stomach, bones, and lungs. He died several months later at the age of 39.

“I believe that if my husband had consistent health care during his adult life he would still be alive today,” Regina told CNN. “Today, I’m a member of Kaiser Permanente and I see how true preventative care works-annual physicals, paying attention to medical records, charting how you’re doing year to year. If anyone had ever done that for my husband there’s a very good chance he’d be alive today.”

The method used to determine how many lives were lost was based on a model developed by the Institute of Medicine in 2002 for their report "Care without Coverage: Too Little, Too Late."  In that report, the IOM found 18,000 adults between 25 and 64 died in 2000 because they didn't have health insurance. 

Pollack says if the Affordable Health Care Act stays intact and goes into effect fully in 2014, millions of American will be eligible for help covering costs and insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions or charge them higher premiums.


soundoff (443 Responses)
  1. revolting peasant

    I would support the repeal of Obamacare if the entire congress signed a pledge to come up with sometihng different in the next two years or to voluntarily resign and abdicate their government-provided health coverage. No system is perfect, but the one we have prior to Obamacare is really broken. The problems have been well-understood for 25 years, but Washington has done nothing. Like it or not, Obama got something done. We can't just undo it; we have to do something.

    June 24, 2012 at 13:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Scientist

      Agreed!

      June 24, 2012 at 14:27 | Report abuse |
    • John Galt

      Obama did something alright, something evil and bad that had nothing to do with healthcare and everything to do with seizing control of the health care provders.

      July 8, 2012 at 11:11 | Report abuse |
  2. yahmez

    The affordable care act falls short of it's goal. By forcing everyone to purchase private insurance, it diverts money FROM health care, into the pockets of insurance company executives and bureaucrats. This supports the very industry that has made health care so unaffordable. Rewrite this law to bring single payer (socialized) medicine to America. Only then will consumers have the bargaining power to bring down health care costs.

    June 24, 2012 at 16:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Katie

      Wrong. It puts more money into the pool to help cover the chronically ill, the seriously ill, and the urgent or emergent needs of people. Only if everyone pays into the program will it work. Massachusetts did it – thanks to Mitt Romney's insights – and the overall cost of health care (insurance premiums and medical costs for doctors, hospitals, and tests) went down or stabilized because representatives from all areas got together to agree on capping costs. They would not have done this without the Massachusetts plan. Today 98% of Massachusetts has health care coverage and for the most part, they LOVE the entire plan. Romney should be very proud instead of hiding his light under a bushel. The Affordable Care Act was modeled after the Romney plan.

      June 24, 2012 at 18:49 | Report abuse |
  3. SouthernCelt

    Forcing people to choose between paying for healthcare or paying for food is just wrong! Infringing on Religious Liberty as the HHS Mandate does is also un-American. Obamacare may address some issues correctly but those issues need to be repealed and hopefully the Supreme Court will agree. Obamacare is just an attempt to fix the hopelessly broken Health Care System, it is Not the Solution.

    June 24, 2012 at 17:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. john

    Correction: NOBODY dies because they don't have health INSURANCE. They die because they don't have health CARE. They are not the same thing.

    June 24, 2012 at 17:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Katie

      Yes and no. If people don't have health insurance, they are much less likely to seek out medical care until they are in serious need, and for some of them, it's too late. However, other people DO die because their health insurance won't cover their needs or because they simply can't get health insurance because of a pre-existing condition, such as having had cancer before. Those are the true death panels – the bean counters in the insurance industry who make life and death decisions for the insured. and the bureaucrats of the insurance companies who enforce those decions because it keeps their profits up. Insurance companies don't exist to help people, they exist to make money.

      June 24, 2012 at 18:59 | Report abuse |
  5. oneeyejeff

    USA is the only industrial nation in the world that bankrupts people with unaffordable high medical bills! Politicians with lobbying supports of insurance and health care industries don't care about our human values and people's lives. They want your money for their profits to keep companies alive rather than keep people alive. If you have financial difficulties for paying medical bills, then get out of USA and move to Canada, Europe, and even, socialist Cuba. They have free universal health and dental care because they care about the human value and people's lives. These countries have true freedom for human values. USA does not have human freedom because everything is based on money to survive. USA is definitely the land of rugged individualism. That is tragedy for being a poor and even, a middle class in USA! Only for rich survives successfully in America.

    June 24, 2012 at 21:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Bill

    If Romney is elected we, all except members of congress and the rich, all will have the Republican health care plan for free. that is, if you get sick, die quickly.

    June 24, 2012 at 21:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Hez316)

      I don't think you know romneys background on health care very well

      June 24, 2012 at 23:27 | Report abuse |
    • Oz

      Congressman Grayson, didn't we send your leftist butt home to Orlando two years ago? Thanks for your input though!

      June 25, 2012 at 01:08 | Report abuse |
  7. VVVV

    This report is BS. I am an RN and there is an obvious positive correlation with those that don't have insurance and those that do other risky behaviors. At least more than 90% of hospital stays or treatments don't come from what they found out through preventive care. It comes from a pain, or a problem that arises. Preventive care has it's place, but it's mostly just over blown political propaganda.

    June 24, 2012 at 23:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. VVVV

    People without health insurance still get medical care, they still get preventative care & they don't die from not having insurance. I don't have insurance and when I get sick I go see the specialist of my choice without having to wait. A person with insurance has to jump hoops and wait frequently. Do they factor that in? No! We need to talk about health care and get serious about it, but there is so much political propaganda out there it is unreal.

    June 24, 2012 at 23:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Amoreena

      If you don't have insurance, how is it that you see the specialist of your choice? I can't. I can't afford it. I don't have insurance, and most specialists won't even take people without insurance unless they can pay up front, which I can't. I have a bunch of potentially serious problems, and I can't get any tests to determine if & what's going on, because I don't have insurance. I probably will die prematurely because I have no access to insurance, not enough money, and no access to healthcare.
      What's your secret?
      I mean besides being employed, having had the luxury of getting the schooling to go into a profession that happens to be one of the few professions where one can easily obtain a job these days?

      July 4, 2012 at 23:51 | Report abuse |
  9. Mario

    This story is what Republicans call a "feel good hilarious story". If Republicans had a plan to help the uninsured it would have happened years ago, they don't care.

    June 24, 2012 at 23:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Amoreena

      Or they're living in ignorance like VVVV who seems to think that anyone can afford to go get the ct scan they need by paying $1,500 up front when they can't even afford insurance. *rolls eyes*

      July 4, 2012 at 23:52 | Report abuse |
  10. paramad

    If you got the money honey you can get all the care you want with or without insurance.
    Sounds like that old Ayn Rand horse pucky that it's your own fault if your not rich, beautiful or can't afford healthcare. People are just lazy and dumb if they aren't making a bundle.
    The more I read some of these comments I begin to realize that elitist class warfare is indeed alive and well.

    June 25, 2012 at 01:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Amoreena

      I know it's scary. I wonder about some of those people – what would happen if their luck turned around suddenly, would they sing a different tune? Or suck it up, kill themselves, or die quietly?

      July 4, 2012 at 23:54 | Report abuse |
  11. salman

    Nice information, can anybody tell me the good travelling insurance plan for Dubai

    June 26, 2012 at 05:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Jane

    I believe this report. currently I've had an autoimmune illness which is wide spread (that is world wide and not HIV, friends). From some of the research thus far, it seems that some people do get far more ill than others; genetic differences cause variation. Woe to those without decent coverage simply in diagnosis which is expensive and difficult to find. Death would be a probability for any of those who get one of the very worst forms and are never diagnosed. I have heard of people who actually do go into a wasting syndrome. I am fortunate to be just barely covered.. And to have a wonderful doctor; I was diagnosed finally by a referral from a neurologist to my current specialist. However, I do not find this article to be a bit elitist. I can't afford the treatments which are now available to me which might offer some relief; perhaps enough to get me to a point of returning to work. I cannot now regrettably. Some medical care I need does fall by the wayside as I cannot afford the co-pay. Medicare -from SSD- does not cover the meds which might help me now. Nor does it cover preventative medicine. wish I could cover that somehow, but fact is I cannot. Simply making a point here; while the medical system in place might not be killing me, it is killing a good many others. It had been estimated at one time that on hundred of every thousand Americans has myalgiac encephalomyelitis. (An awful lot of people, eh? And this is just one illness; think of all of those who cannot afford checkups for things which could detect cancers, other illnesses...)

    July 3, 2012 at 20:40 | Report abuse | Reply
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  15. Birm

    I have a chronic mastoiditis and can die from possible spreading of the infection to my brain. I have a share cost Medicaid coverage in the state of Florida but it's like having no insurance. No ear, nose and throat surgeon accepts Medicare. Why even give us poor and needy people this useless fake health insurance. I can't believe that in 2012 I can die from an ear infection gone wrong due to antibiotic resistant infection. Thanks greedy republicans and all who oppose uniform healthcare. Sadly USA is far behind so many countries in this matter. We need to regulate pharmaceutical companies and health care billing. No other industry has such a huge profit gain. How can you justify charging 300 bucks for pain pills equal to over the counter Tylenol in the ER. I am baffled at how we have allowed such a thing to go on when so many are dying daily due to high costs of health coverage and the lack there of. God bless America and pray that we stop being blinded by hate, greed and obsession of power. Jesus open their eyes and ears, stop them from spreading evil, stop them from judging others, stop them from using your words and gift of love to spread hatred and discrimination against our fellow brothers and sisters. I believe in Gods love for all mankind whether you are straight, gay, white or black.

    August 19, 2012 at 06:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Patti Keegan

    The only people who want Obamacare are those who don't have insurance. Nobody else cares!!! Everybody is out for themselves. Obamacares might cost them money...God forbid!! There is a price on your head;I should say life. Make sure you vote for him in November or we all be in trouble.

    August 28, 2012 at 10:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Swede

      Patti, please study the pre-Billary facts. Better to vote that clown Obama out and let the US go back to how it was–it's better health care and cheaper for everyone in the US.

      October 11, 2012 at 12:44 | Report abuse |
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      I am 16 years old, I got my license about 4 mohtns ago. I pay $ 24 a month for fire/theft/collision and a 15K mileage cap. My deductable is $ 125. It's a 100% stock and original, restored 1973 Volkswagen Beetle worth about $ 9K. I live in the dense suburbs of Fairfield County, CT. How I managed to get the rate and my deductable that low is beyond me. I have no idea at all. I do have antique plates, but I have a 15K mileage cap.

      November 16, 2012 at 00:47 | Report abuse |
  18. wes

    It all started 22 years ago when a friend of mine got giardia as a child, later at 16 he was diagnosed with diverticulitis and diverticulosis, a disease that most eldery people get in their 70s and 80s. He is 32 now and has been dealing with this excruciating abdominal pain for 16 years. He doesn't have health insurance bc he got fired from his last job bc he had to have surgery. He cant work because during the surgery doctors removed a large section of his colon and most of his large intestines and some of his stomach muscles, this prevents him from working. So no health insurance. He was also denied disability and medicaid because he doesn't have any children and he is single. Seriously??? This guy doesnt have kids bc he is trying to get better without putting that burden of a sick father on potential kids. He doesnt do drugs or drink. He works even tho he hurts. He has to bring 3 changes of clothes with him anywhere he goes because he never knows when his intestines will bleed or when he wont be able to control a bowel movement. His stomach swells so big that it forces his intestines to protrude from his rectum. What kind of life is that?!?! What is this country coming to when people who have a legitimate health problem cant even get help when they aren't messed up on drugs and have kids??? He went to the ER today for a flare up from a surgery he had about 6 months ago. I went with him to be some comfort and I was completely blown away by what occured at this hospital. He was accused of wanting narcotics to control his pain, he didn't want the pills, he just wanted someone to listen to him. It took them 30 minutes to give him a blanket while he laid in the hall shivering, it took less than 5 seconds to get him one. All the while I was looking around at the nurses standing around talking and laughing with each other, even the patient liason came over to ask him if he needed a blanket and he replied yes, however, she never came back either. I was completely astonished by the lack of urgency and communication between colleages when people are there trying to get some help. Not once did anyone offer to call his doctor in his hometown or try to get medical records to try and find a solution. All he was presented with was all ur test are normal except for what you already know is wrong. We can give u a scan and some drugs and send u home or we can just skip that and give u some drugs and send u home. We were there for 6 hours and thats the best a medical professional can come up with? He didn't want the drugs, he wants an answer. I just dont understand, its completely ridiculous. Does anyone know of any programs or people that he could talk to? Thanks for listening.

    September 11, 2012 at 20:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • cestmoi

      Wes, what's your email?

      September 20, 2012 at 00:09 | Report abuse |
  19. Swede

    Pre-Billary, US health care was superb. Afterwards, it sunk, and Obamacare will sink it further. Americans don't die due to lack of health insurance. Can we stop word-bending, please?

    October 11, 2012 at 12:42 | Report abuse | Reply
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    October 14, 2012 at 01:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Celeste

    I agree 100 percent with tax money being spent to insure that all Americans have basic access to medical care!!!

    October 28, 2012 at 01:52 | Report abuse | Reply
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    April 1, 2013 at 05:41 | Report abuse | Reply
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  25. Jenny

    Why are people not on Medicaid?

    November 18, 2013 at 11:46 | Report abuse | Reply
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