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Each Year, Thousands of Uninsured Californians Die Prematurely

Stakes in Debate over ‘Obamacare’ for Too Many Americans: Life or Death

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By: Families USA

Washington, D.C. June 20, 2012 — While the nation's attention remains focused on legal and political fights over health reform—including an imminent ruling by the Supreme Court on the matter—a too-often invisible tragedy continues to play out nationwide for uninsured families who struggle to get the health care they need. Hundreds of Americans die prematurely every week simply and primarily because they have not had access to health insurance coverage.

The number of deaths nationally and in every state are detailed in a report released today by the consumer advocacy organization Families USA, which found that in 2010 more than 26,000 Americans between the ages of 25 and 64 died prematurely because they did not have health coverage. For California, those national figures translate to 3,164 deaths in 2010, or approximately 61 Californians every week.

The reasons for a lack of coverage for Americans between the ages of 25 and 64 vary. Many Americans have had coverage denied because of pre-existing health conditions. Many others, particularly during the recent economic downturn, have been priced out of the insurance market as they have struggled to maintain homes and feed families in the face of continually-rising insurance premiums. Still other families have fallen victim to the decade-long decline in employer-sponsored coverage.

While the reason for a lack of coverage may vary, other facts are fixed:

* Between 2005 and 2010, the number of people who died prematurely due to a lack of health coverage each year rose from 20,350 to 26,100.
* Between 2005 and 2010, the total number of people who died prematurely due to a lack of health coverage was 134,120.
* Each and every state is affected by premature death due to a lack of health insurance. In 2010, the number of premature deaths due to a lack of health coverage ranged from 28 in Vermont to 3,164 in California.

One striking aspect of our national health care delivery is the fact that the uninsured in California and other states pay more for medical care, mainly because uninsured Californians are unable to negotiate the discounts on hospital and doctor charges that insurance companies do. As a result, uninsured Californians and other uninsured Americans often go without screenings and preventive care, or they often delay or forgo needed medical care.

These and other factors result in uninsured Californians and other uninsured Americans being sicker and dying earlier than those who have insurance:
* In 2010 in California, approximately 3,164 people died prematurely because they did not have health coverage. The means that a lack of health coverage led to a premature death for approximately 61 people each week and approximately 264 people each month in California.

"The Affordable Care Act was passed by Congress to address an American tragedy and an American shame," Ron Pollack, Executive Director of Families USA said today. "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.

"For almost 50 million Americans, not having health insurance isn't trivial, or just an inconvenience or a minor budget challenge. 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."

"Now the life of the Affordable Care Act itself has been put in jeopardy," Pollack said. "Getting rid of the Affordable Care Act—as some seek—wipes out the broad access to coverage coming in 2014, when millions of Americans will be eligible for assistance with the cost of health coverage, and when insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions or charge them higher premiums.

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

The Families USA report, "Dying for Coverage," is built on the methodology of a groundbreaking report released by the Institute of Medicine in 2002. That report, "Care without Coverage: Too Little, Too Late," established the direct link between a lack of health coverage and premature death. A copy of "Dying for Coverage" is available at http://familiesusa2.org/assets/pdfs/Dying-for-Coverage.pdf

 

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