Washington, D.C. — One person dies each day in Colorado because he or she doesn't have health insurance, says a new report by Families USA, the national organization for health care consumers.
The Families USA report, the first-ever state-specific report of this type, is based on a groundbreaking national study by the Institute of Medicine, which in 2002 forged the direct link between a lack of health coverage and deaths from health-related causes.
“Our report highlights how our inadequate system of health coverage condemns a great number of Coloradans to an early death simply because they don’t have the same access to health care as their insured neighbors,” Ron Pollack, Executive Director of Families USA, said today. “The conclusions are sadly clear—a lack of health coverage is a matter of life and death for many Coloradans.
“Health insurance really matters in how people make their health care decisions,” Pollack said. “We know that people without insurance often forgo checkups, screenings, and other preventive care.”
As a result, he said, uninsured adults are more likely to be diagnosed with a disease, such as cancer, in an advanced stage, which greatly reduces their chance of survival. The Institute of Medicine found that uninsured adults are 25 percent more likely to die prematurely than adults with private health insurance.
Another recent academic study found that uninsured adults between the ages of 55 and 64 are even more likely to die prematurely. For this group, a lack of health insurance is the third leading cause of death, following heart disease and cancer.
The Families USA report for Colorado makes three specific points about uninsured adults:
* Families USA estimates that one working-age Coloradan dies each day due to lack of health insurance (approximately 360 people in 2006).
* Between 2000 and 2006, the estimated number of adults between the ages of 25 and 64 in Colorado who died because they did not have health insurance was nearly 2,100.
* Across the United States, in 2006, twice as many people in that same age category died from a lack of health insurance as died from homicide.
“Access to quality health care should be a basic right for everyone,” said U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), Vice Chair of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, which has jurisdiction over health care policy. “This report illustrates the importance of investing in preventative health care. Not only is it our moral obligation to provide care, but preventative care is more cost-effective. Without it, our emergency rooms would be overflowing with patients seeking basic health care, thereby resulting in increased costs for our already strained health care system.”
In its 2002 report, the Institute of Medicine estimated that 18,000 adults nationwide died in 2000 because they did not have health insurance. That estimate was later updated by the Urban Institute, which reported that at least 22,000 adults died in 2006 due to a lack of health insurance.