44,000 Americans Dead a Year From Lack of Health Insurance

More than 44,000 Americans die every year — 122 every day — due to lack of health insurance.

That’s the startling finding of a new study — Health Insurance and Mortality in U.S. Adults –- that appears in the current issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

The 44,000 dead a year estimate is about two-and-a-half times higher than an estimate from the Institute of Medicine in 2002.

The Harvard-based researchers found that uninsured, working-age Americans have a 40 percent higher risk of death than their privately insured counterparts, up from a 25 percent excess death rate found in 1993.

“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,” said lead author Dr. Andrew Wilper. “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.”

“Historically, every other developed nation has achieved universal health care through some form of nonprofit national health insurance,” said study co-author Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, a professor of medicine at Harvard and a primary care physician in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “Our failure to do so means that all Americans pay higher health care costs, and 45,000 pay with their lives.”

“Even the most liberal version of the House bill would leave 17 million people uninsured,” Woolhandler said. “The whittled down version that Senator Max Baucus is proposing would leave 25 million uninsured. That translates into about 25,000 deaths annually from lack of health insurance. Absent the $400 billion in savings you could get from a single payer system, universal coverage is unaffordable. Politicians in Washington are protecting insurance industry profits while sacrificing American lives.”

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 Institute of Medicine and others had put that figure near 18,000.

The methods used in the Harvard were similar to those employed by the Institute of Medicine in 2002, which in turn were based on a pioneering 1993 study of health insurance and mortality.

Deaths associated with lack of health insurance now exceed those caused by many common killers such as kidney disease.

An increase in the number of uninsured and an eroding medical safety net for the disadvantaged likely explain the substantial increase in the number of deaths associated with lack of insurance.

The uninsured are more likely to go without needed care.

Another factor contributing to the widening gap in the risk of death between those who have insurance and those who don’t is the improved quality of care for those who can get it.

The research, carried out at the Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard Medical School, analyzed U.S. adults under age 65 who participated in the annual National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) between 1986 and 1994.

Respondents first answered detailed questions about their socioeconomic status and health and were then examined by physicians.

The CDC tracked study participants to see who died by 2000.

The study found a 40 percent increased risk of death among the uninsured. As expected, death rates were also higher for males (37 percent increase), current or former smokers (102 percent and 42 percent increases), people who said that their health was fair or poor (126 percent increase), and those that examining physicians said were in fair or poor health (222 percent increase).

“The Institute of Medicine, using older studies, estimated that one American dies every 30 minutes from lack of health insurance,” said study co-author Dr. David Himmelstein. “Even this grim figure is an underestimate – now one dies every 12 minutes.”

The authors broke down the 44,840 deaths by state.

California leads the nation with 5,302 deaths due to lack of health insurance per year.

Texas follows closely behind with 4,675 deaths due to lack of health insurance per year.

Texas also had the highest rate (in 2005) of uninsured citizens — 29.7 percent.

Russell Mokhiber is editor of Corporate Crime Reporter and founder of singlepayeraction.org Read other articles by Russell, or visit Russell's website.

21 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Shannon said on September 19th, 2009 at 11:02am #

    Obviously you are another hater of America. If you want Socialism move to a country that already is suffering from that decision.

  2. bozh said on September 19th, 2009 at 11:26am #

    hey! have u not noticed there is no longer amerika; thus, no amerikans!
    The people dying are lazy, unproductive, resource-draining, dumb, etc.
    Forget ab. nationalism; plutos hate that nonsense. Whipping up frenetic nationalism or eve imperialism was at one time useful for plutos, but those days are forever over.
    We have now, instead, raging planetarianism.

  3. Don Hawkins said on September 19th, 2009 at 12:16pm #

    It maybe to late for American Bozh. How is Canada this time of year. Not me but in 20 years many I talked with my son about just that, survival.

  4. lichen said on September 19th, 2009 at 2:54pm #

    Yes, exactly, and people who support the for-profit corporate insurance companies because single-payer doesn’t solve homelessness clearly don’t care about the tens of thousands of people who die from lack of health care; especaily since HR676 also includes psychotherapy and dental, naturopath benefits, which would be a great thing for so many people…

  5. Annie Ladysmith said on September 19th, 2009 at 11:58pm #

    Dear Russell, do you know how many people died because they have health insurance and went to the hospital in a YEAR!? MILLIONS, too many to count! Cancer cures took the bulk of ’em at 78%!! Bad drug interactions, some people were on 50 drugs a day, the incidence of interaction goes up the more drugs your on, made 22%!
    Surgery mishaps took a measly 16% but a recount is on the rounds as i write this. The total is way up since last year, what with doctors being under stress with retirement funds and all that, and unfortunately the admin. people at the FDA let a few bad ones slip by, but hey, millions is better than trillions, right??

  6. Deadbeat said on September 20th, 2009 at 3:39am #

    Annie point is well taken and why the “single payer” demand is perhaps not the best approach for real change in health care. Access to the current system my actually be more “unhealthy” than demanding a RIGHT TO housing for everyone.

  7. Socialism: Only Salvation for USA said on September 20th, 2009 at 8:30am #

    ONLY A UNITED SOCIALIST FRONT RIGHT NOW CAN SAVE THE U.S.A FROM CAPITALISM !!

    More than 3000 people died on September 11, 2001. They came from more than 90 countries, so we can stop saying “how could they murder 3000 Americans”. This was an assault on the world that just happened to be in America. Millions have died since in the imperialistic wars of aggression that have followed. The possible reason behind this was to insure they had the world’s attention. It worked. What do we know for sure? IT WAS NOT DONE BY OSAMA BIN LADEN OR 19 FANATICAL AL QUAIDA! Some say Bush / Cheney did it. No they were merely the figureheads during the attacks. Nothing has changed. The hidden hand of neoliberal capitalism is the instigation of all of this. Profit at all costs, the bottom line. Like Vladimir Lenin said that capitalism is horror without end.

    The US Govenment is bought and paid for, they do not represent the US public they represent the capitalist class and their interests. Barak Obama is a capitalist, he promised a changed which would be socialism. He promised “change we could believe in”. End torture, stop wiretaps without warrants, end the Middle East wars, basically reverse all of the Bush administration’s capitalist-criminal practices. Not only did he break all of the above promises but he intensified the Afghan campaign bringing higher death tolls to both soldiers and civillians.

    If their timetable was 10 years for the pre-planned demolition of America is right on track for those that started this madness.

    September 11, 2001 was a seminal moment for all of this world’s occupants. For most people in the US, they carry on watching the fluff that passes for news on the MSM. They all know the latest celebrity that has died, thrown into re-hab, charged with dui who married/slept with/dumped/murdered (hi O.J.) whom. This was all created to distract. In the third world their only concerns are staying alive and free of tyrrany. Thattyrrany has arrived in the US, this will be the test country to form the New World Order. For if it fails in North America it will fail everywhere and those that are the Powers That Be will not let that happen. It is said to find the culprit follw the money. Duh. Banksters are the root of all evil that befalls us all. We were lied to from birth about the world around us. Yes folks we are in our own version of the matrix.

    Information is our weapon. The 9/11 truth movement coaleased rather quikly following the twin towers demise. I sreamed at the TV news cast during the announcement of Anthrax attacks. ENOUGH!!! was my only thought. We all started to question everything, bin laden video/ invade Afghanistan Oct. 2001. Anthrax Oct 2001 / Patriot (how utterly Orwellian) Act, DC Snipers, nothing left to chance. They rule by fear. It is the fear that will drive most people to believe that the government would never do harm to it’s citizens by way of mandated (forced) injections. Monetary controls, check points, searching bank, medical, library , school, phone, travel, email, postal records. Perpetual confinement without recourse or representation. Obama is willing to keep people in prision without a trial because the evidence is weak and they were tortured for this weak evidence for the purpose of show trial to keep the population believing in a fairy tale. In the US anyone can now be locked up forever for thinking.

    The only change that will ever happen is if WE make the change. That’s right all you internet warriors, this is real. We came together under unusual circumstances, an understanding that something was not right. Bolstered by your inner sense that forced you into the position of helping stop all that is wrong with this picture. We do not agree on all points except one, THE WORLD TRADE CENTER WAS DESTOYED BY THE POWERS THAT BE. Plane / no plane. Flt 77 / missile. Thermite vs. mininuke. Brush that all aside people we are the cutting edge, we formed because of it. We are the new movement that will shape our children’s future so they can carry on the fight. We are the leaders that are bringing the fight to them. Do not fear them, loathe them and never forget the hate. Let the rage inside come out. Scream out load I’m mad as hell.

    I shall never surrender and I know if you are reading this you won’t either. Nothing has changed with Obama. The USA still has a capitalist system intact, which benefits the upper classes and buries the exploited workers and peasants.

    Let other people you know learn about socialism! Spread the word… the more people who know the truth, the greater the force against the capitalist system! Resistance forever!

    …………………../´¯/)
    ………………..,/¯../
    ………………./…./
    …………./´¯/’…’/´¯¯`·¸
    ………./’/…/…./……./¨¯\
    ……..(‘(…´…´…. ¯~/’…’)
    ………\……………..’…../
    ……….”…\………. _.·´
    …………\…………..

    SO PLEASE, STICK UP YOUR MIDDLE FINGER TO US IMPERIALISM AND CAPITALIST OPPRESSION !!

  8. Socialism: Only Salvation for USA said on September 20th, 2009 at 8:31am #

    WHY IS THE WHOLE WORLD FUCKED BY A FEW OLIGARCHS? SOCIALIST ANALYSIS IS THE ANSWER

    I AM AN ABSOLUTE MARXIST, AN ABSOLUTE LENINIST AND AN ABSOLUTE TROTKIST !! I BELIEVE THAT ONLY LEFTIST-IDEOLOGY CAN GET US OUT OF THIS ECONOMIC-HELL THAT USA IS IN !!

    Karl Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Luxemburg can answer your questions. Marxist, leftist poing of views are the smartests, and most scientifical views which can explain to us, the goal behind this accumulation of capital in a few hands. The real reason is not really to destroy the whole planet like people think. But this is just a consequence of the capitalist world system which has become like an 800 lb. gorilla on steroids. In other words, not even the capitalists in power could control this 800 lb. gorilla.

    Only a paradigm shift toward socialism, toward workers-state socialism can save humans.

    And i think that the middle-class of USA is blocking a change. The middle-classes of USA don’t want USA to get economically better. The middle-classes of USA conspire to support the bankruptcy of the United States by voting every 4 years for Democrats and Republicans.

    What we need is a workers-council state in USA. A government ruled by workers while at the same time on the economic side: the mega corporations of USA like Wal-Mart, Pepsi, Coca Cola, Mcdonalds, General Electric, etc. owned by workers, thru the system of “workers control of production” (Workers management/workers-ownership), or “Workers stock ownership” however you want to label it.

    Only under the proletarian dictatorship are real liberties for the exploited and real participation of the proletarians and peasants in governing the country possible. Under the dictatorship of the proletariat, democracy is proletarian democracy, the democracy of the exploited majority, based on the restriction of the rights of the exploiting minority and directed against this minority.

    The dictatorship of the proletariat cannot arise as the result of the peaceful development of bourgeois society and of bourgeois democracy; it can arise only as the result of the smashing of the bourgeois state machine, the bourgeois army, the bourgeois bureaucratic apparatus, the bourgeois police.

    That’s why Lenin is very right in saying: “The proletarian revolution is impossible without the forcible destruction of the bourgeois state machine and the substitution for it of a new one” (see Vol. XXIII, P. 342)

    Soviet power as the state form of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The victory of the dictatorship of the proletariat signifies the suppression of the bourgeoisie, the smashing of the bourgeois state machine and the substitution of proletarian democracy for bourgeois democracy

  9. rosemarie jackowski said on September 20th, 2009 at 9:34am #

    Right now C-span is re-airing the Kucinich Health Care hearings. Rep. Cummings actually used the word “fraud” in reference to the health insurance company execs. The hearings can also be accessed on the C-span web site.
    Watching these capitalistic crooks reminds me of the tobacco hearings a few years ago. The tobacco company’s hired liars stood, raised their right hands, and swore to tell the truth. Then, one after another – like a perfectly choreographed ballet, each said that tobacco was not harmful.

  10. B99 said on September 20th, 2009 at 9:51am #

    USF – What is your process toward getting to worker’s councils? Are you only living in the future and do not have a process of getting to the future? Do you think the present health care/insurance debate matters?

  11. Socialism: Only Salvation for USA said on September 20th, 2009 at 11:00am #

    b99: Hi, that process like you said is real hard in the USA. First of all because USA is too big. Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina, and other countries who have shifted toward centrist social-democrat governments and away from corporate oligarchic economic models, are a lot smaller than USA. And that’s one of the hardest things for the US left (The size of USA, including Hawai, Puerto Rico, Guam, Alaska, and all the US secondary states in this world that belong to USA).

    So that’s the main problem i see, the bigness, the size of America, which represents a problem for the creation of a United People’s Front in a presidential election.

    .

  12. B99 said on September 20th, 2009 at 11:18am #

    Unless socialists are going to wait for the break-up of the US, then they have to have a plan for the present. How do you get the working class to ally as one against the capitalists when the working class is riven with racial and ethnic divides? How do you get both the white and black working classes to organize for universal health care?

  13. Socialism: Only Salvation for USA said on September 20th, 2009 at 12:03pm #

    sorry to reply so late, but i don’t think that racism is such a big problem anymore in USA. I mean the US economy is so bad that the majority of americans who are poors are not black anymore. Most poors of America and people who are beating the bullets in USA are also white, blacks, spanish, asians and people from all walks of life.

    The problem americans are facing is how to put their bread in their table 3 times a day for their families.

    Americans are worried about real issues of survival or death like food, i think racism is dying slowlyin in America

    Read my words correctly: i havent said that racism is dead in USA, but what i mean is that the USA of 2010 is a lot less racist than the USA of 1980s and 1990s. Because the key issues today for most americans is how to put bread on the table, and how to fulfill the basic needs of every day life of americans like medicine, electricity, phone, water, monthly apartment and house bills, the damn taxes and other fees.

    .

  14. Deadbeat said on September 20th, 2009 at 12:11pm #

    My question is whether universal health care IS the most important issue to rally behind and what will happen when it is won? I think this health care is an important issue but since we are talking about tactics it doesn’t appear like single payer is going to be achieved with the currents set of tactics now being expressed.

    I do see people of color in UNION fighting for single payer but on the whole I don’t see a really big movement for single payer in communities of color. Health care is important but it is not the IMMEDIATE issue. HOUSING and HOMELESSNESS are the immediate issues. African Americans especially have been devastated by the crisis with large numbers of unemployed and victimized by the banking frauds and why ACORN was targeted by the Right.

    Some would argue that an integrated message — for example “housing and health” would muddle the message but I disagree which is an argument that I heard for years especially from Liberal who like to piecemeal their demands.

    Housing most especially is recognized as a human right yet it is still treated as a commodity — that you have to purchase or rent whereby someone expects to “gain” not only revenue but equity. This is immoral that another person expect to see their “investment” grow based on the HUMAN need for shelter. Just as we see insurance company base their business model the grow of human illness.

    Safe, secure and decent housing is vital to HEALTH and should be integrated into the demand for health care. These issue need to merge and allow people to see the holistic nature of these issues rather than by into the Liberal approach of compartmentalizing issues.

    Also many who are advocating single payer are WITH homes meaning that should the issue be won — which right now it won’t be — will have no INTEREST in changing the current housing paradigm. This may be a reason why the single payer issue does not resonate at much within communities of color. Low outreach is probably another reason.

    B99 raises the issue of race. But both race and CLASS has to be integrated as well. The need for decent housing among blacks and the poor is much greater than for “middle class” whites while health care is a problem that stretches across the spectrum. Which is why I think that once won those folks will just head home because they have no need to struggle for housing.

  15. Max Shields said on September 20th, 2009 at 12:25pm #

    The problem, as I see it regarding change, at any level…and I mean deep rooted change that address the core problems, is that it is all a bootstrape dilemma.

    ***************************************************
    How do you change what is with what is?
    ***************************************************

    That is why I it has been my contention that these problems, while they may be half resolved with a collapse of the greater system, the outcome could be worse (even if short-lived). The reason is that organizing at the stratosphere (national) is overwhelming to the point of creating inertia – the kind we see in the so-called progressive attempts and health care “reform” and “anti-war” movements.

    It may feel like tackling this at those levels is what’s called for, that the problem is located at the national level; but the truth, in my opinion, is that the problem is rooted elsewhere; and that DC is a symptom. On one level it looks like the cause, but it cannot change itself which is why it cannot be the center of true deep change.

    Health care is an issue. How we pay for it, multiple-private insurers or a single-government/public insurer, is only a part of the problem and so it will not correct the systemic issues.

    In part, that is because, the dominant governing principles are empire in nature, hierachically driven from forces which cannot be peeled off the system – IT IS THE SYSTEM. Our endless wars, our economics symbiotically tied to this system and, as they say, the zebra cannot change its stripes.

    Solutions? To be continued…

  16. Don Hawkins said on September 20th, 2009 at 2:00pm #

    Max a couple of thoughts. On the tube the news what do we see? Foolishness as we now this day all face the biggest problems human’s have ever faced. 200k years for us humans on this planet a blink of an eye. Lovelock said it best.

    It’s like the pre-World War II calm in Britain when I was a young man. No one did anything until bombs began to fall. We really don’t notice climate change; it seems theoretical to most of us. When the first great climate disaster strikes, I hope we will all pull together just as if our nation was being invaded. James Lovelock

    The problem of course is to wait until that first great climate disaster strikes to late. The best minds we have keep telling us just that and no one is listening. Instead we see now fighting from our so called leaders and just maybe part of that is because they know yes they know and it is now playing out in strange way’s. The plans if any that are being made now are for certain groups, gangs, org’s but not even that as a sort of weakness of the mind appears to have set in and bad is good. We have the knowledge the best of times but no will from a few the worst of times. To see how this play’s out after Copenhagen and the climate change bill here in the States will be amazing to see if nothing else. Huckabee or Palin in 2012 game over and if you are in your 20’s 30’s make your plans. Learn to travel light and move fast. If we are going to try it must start now I see a little light just a little.

  17. Don Hawkins said on September 20th, 2009 at 2:20pm #

    This winter promises to be different weather wise. Great climate disaster no not what is to come but many are already in big trouble Australia being just one. In many way’s we don’t even need the science anymore to see just open our eye’s a little. The darkside is still strong and very sure there next move is to late listen to us and adapt. Adapt yes listen to us not this person. Still time with a Herculean effort the knowledge it is still here what we see on the News no that is Foolishness an old way of thinking. We need a new way of thinking.

  18. Don Hawkins said on September 20th, 2009 at 2:45pm #

    Another country in a bit of trouble and others on the list all of them.

    A report provided by the centre to the Guardian shows rainfall coming in shorter, fiercer bursts, interspersed by protracted periods of drought, particularly in the north. Water supplies have been badly affected. The Yellow river watershed has suffered a continuous drought since 1965 and it is getting worse, it said. Almost half the serious droughts of the past 60 years have occurred since 1990.
    “Due to climate change, drought disasters come more frequently and across a wider area,” the report noted.
    Since 1950, Beijing has had an average of 36 rainy days a year, but not once in the past decade has that figure been reached. In 2007, the northernmost province of Heilongjiang reported a summer drought, which is almost unheard of in what is usually a flood season. Glaciers are melting at an accelerating rate.
    A ferocious storm on 10 May this year broke records in Gaoqing, Shandong, with nearly 19.7cm of water dumped from the skies in one day. On the edge of the Gobi desert in Xilin Haote, Inner Mongolia, 5.6 cm of rain fell on 27 June 2008 – the most since a monitoring station was established in the area fifty years earlier.
    Summer is coming earlier and hotter across swaths of the North. Of the many records broken this year, the most dramatic was in Shijiazhuang Hebei where the temperature soared to 30C on 17 March, more than six degrees higher than the previous high for that day.
    Near the border with Siberia, the counties of Yilan and Yichun have experienced the hottest May in history and searing heat of more than 40C is now commonplace in many areas of the north.
    “I think it is the responsibility of scientists to have a sense of crisis. We should study whether climate change threatens human survival,” says Xiao. “But I believe humans are wise creatures. With wisdom and effort, we will prevent disaster. There is always hope.” The Guardian

    “But I believe humans are wise creatures. With wisdom and effort, we will prevent disaster. There is always hope.” What we see from our so called leaders here in the States is that wisdom how about wise more like wise ass’s. Do we have hope? Well I guess we watch Fox News or CNN and listen to foolishness may give some hope but bullshit is not my idea of hope. It will not be easy to try yes that is true and much better than the hope we see now.

  19. Max Shields said on September 20th, 2009 at 3:32pm #

    Don Hawkins ,

    If I didn’t think this thing was beyond the tipping point, I might gauge something by Copenhagen. To even consider Huckabee and Palin as relevant is beyond…ah…relevant.

    It’s not some much a domesaying comment to see this problem as at sunami level (and the WWII analogy is apropo, but many times greater).

    If you live in a coastal town/city in the Northern part of the Northern Hemisphere it’s just a matter of a few years as more and more land is submerged and with it great swaths of living communities. It’s like a slow boil and so whether imperceptible or complete denial, it matter little, the results are the same.

    Americans have never planned for anything, and they’re not going to start now. If you see recently released film, The Informant, you’ll catch a glimpse of the collective thinking that drives the USA. Matt Damon is masterful, as he thinks his thoughts, swept up in the culture, finding it’s fault, but always the accomplice. Watchin it, I saw what makes the United States of America, the United States of America. It’s ability to want it all, to pretend to care in small doses, but always, greedy and distanced from the harm of the empire that gives such comfort to individualization while decapitating community.

  20. Don Hawkins said on September 21st, 2009 at 5:26am #

    Where have all the flowers gone, the bee’s, people who can use there mind, people who can work, people with imagination, people with knowledge where are they? Do we see them on CNN or CNBC or Fox News no we sure don’t. Fool’s talking with a very old way of thinking and the people they are still here who want to try and use the knowledge are made to look like what? Well you name it and the darkside so clever they are the worst of times playing the same old game an old way of thinking to hold on to an out of control system. Put your money where your mouth is. Can you end a sentence with is? Well that thinking will end the human race as we know it as a start yes it will. I think that should read put your money where your debt is. Yes we have rung up some big debt’s alright and now our answer is more debt and keep burning that coal drill for more oil call call now and from our leaders and there selfless act’s we hear I don’t know much but I know one thing for sure I love you and that may be all I need to know. Yes they love us very very much as we wave our arms in the air as they sing where have all the flowers gone a long long time ago, strange.

  21. Bob said on September 21st, 2009 at 5:43am #

    This started out as health care, and descended into global warming.
    Let’s stay on point shall we!

    44,000 deaths each year from lack of health insurance? I’d like to see those numbers, not estimates, but a real tally.