Death by Lack of Health Care?

One of the issues that gets used in the health reform debate is that not having health care kills people every year.  In my opinion, it isn’t the lack of health care at fault in these cases, it is simply a lack of going to the doctor, and even people without insurance can die simply because they didn’t go to the doctor.  I’ve lived through people making that choice for themselves and lost them.  It is so hard to find anyone giving concrete facts about the number of people who die “because they didn’t heave health insurance” (meaning they didn’t go to the doctor, presumably because they also didn’t have insurance) vs. the number that die with insurance but still didn’t go to the doctor.  I don’t think the numbers would be that far off.  To me, saying people die because they don’t have insurance is just silly.  People die.  Period.  That’s just the way it is.

Uninsured Doesn't Mean Death
This is the 'Dead Collector' from Monty Python's Holy Grail

Anyway, this article, though dated from 2003, gives statistics on the number who die without insurance.  Plus, any author who uses a quote from Monty Python to talk about health insurance gets an A+ in my book.  :)  Here’s an excerpt:

But how many die prematurely from lack of health insurance? The United Steelworkers of America gives an estimate of 18,000. That’s bad, but let’s put the number in perspective: In 1999 there were 29,199 suicides, and a year later 41,821 people died in traffic accidents. So the health care “crisis” does not mean that America’s streets are clogged with folks pushing tumbrels yelling, “Bring out your dead!” Americans are not dying in droves due to a lack of health insurance.

To the extent a crisis exists, it’s because nobody in the health care “system,” least of all patients, feels that they are in control of their health care arrangements. Patients feel insecure about losing their coverage first because it’s tied to their jobs—either their employers will drop their benefits, or they’ll lose their jobs outright. Second, while most patients say they are satisfied with their managed care plans, a significant proportion feel that such plans deprive them of control over their health care choices. Meanwhile, discouraged physicians are being turned into paper-pushers handling mass quantities of government and private health insurance paperwork, while being limited in the tests and drugs they can order for their patients. Physicians are also being squeezed by federal government restrictions on what they can charge their patients. This means that doctors typically lose money on Medicare and Medicaid patients, which forces them to raise prices on their privately insured patients to make a decent living.

Read More from Reason Magazine

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