CAUSE OF DEATH: "UNINSURANCE"
July 9, 2004
Lack of health insurance increases the risk of premature deaths by 43 percent for individuals between 50 and 64, according to a recent study in Health Affairs.
The longitudinal study, conducted by researchers at Brigham and Women's hospital, also reveals:
- An estimated 105,000 uninsured individuals between the ages of 55 and 64 will die prematurely over the next eight years.
- If uninsurance were a disease, it would be the third leading cause of death in the near-elderly age group, behind heart disease and cancer.
- Considering the future growth of the 55 to 64 age group, early deaths attributable to lack of health insurance may exceed 30,000 per year by 2015.
Researchers concede that the study has limitations -- the status of each individual's insurance coverage was based on the year 1992, and does not consider gains or losses in health insurance coverage after that year. Moreover, the study does not have the statistical ability to analyze the impact of expanded Medicare coverage (one of the policy recommendations made in the study) on those who were previously insured or uninsured.
Furthermore, expanded Medicare coverage for those under the age of 65 may further inflate medical costs and put health coverage out of reach for many, according to Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute.
Sources: Alice Dembner, "Uninsured Age 50-64 Face Higher Death Risk," Boston Globe, July 7, 2004; and J. Michael McWilliams, et al., "Health Insurance Coverage and Mortality Among the Near-Elderly," Health Affairs, vol. 23, no. 4.
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