Dying for Coverage: The Deadly Consequences of Being Uninsured
A report from Families USA, June 2012
Note: This report contains data for all states and the District of Columbia.
The number of uninsured Americans reached an all-time high in 2010, as nearly 50 million Americans went without health insurance for the entire year.1 For many of these uninsured people, the consequences of going without coverage are dire. The uninsured frequently face medical debt or go without necessary care, and too many of them die prematurely.
In 2002, the Institute of Medicine released a groundbreaking report, Care without Coverage: Too Little, Too Late. This report estimated that, nationwide, 18,000 adults between the ages of 25 and 64 died in 2000 because they did not have health insurance.2 Since then, the crisis of the uninsured has grown even larger. During the economic downturn, millions of Americans lost both their jobs and their health coverage, and rising health insurance premiums have priced many more out of coverage.
Thankfully, the new health care law can help stem the rising tide of the uninsured. Beginning in 2014, millions of Americans will be eligible for assistance with the cost of health coverage. In addition, insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage or charge higher premiums to people with pre-existing conditions. These measures, among others, will help reverse the growth in the number of uninsured Americans year after year.
The fate of the health care law, however, is now in question. The Supreme Court is currently reviewing the constitutionality of the law, and well-funded right-wing activists are intent upon securing its demise. If the law is struck down, the effects would be catastrophic. Without the law, the number of uninsured will continue to rise, and more Americans will face the adverse health and financial consequences associated with going uninsured. Millions will delay or forgo necessary care. Millions more will face unmanageable medical bills. And, worse still, many will die prematurely.
To estimate the number of Americans who are dying for lack of health coverage, Families USA applied the methodology developed by the Institute of Medicine to state-level population and mortality data. This is one measure of the great need for the Affordable Care Act. As our analysis shows, far too many Americans are, quite literally, dying for coverage.