Veterans without health insurance are more likely to die, study says

A Harvard Medical School study used data from a paper published in August in determining that 2,200 veterans without health insurance died in 2008.

Health Insurance and Mortality in US Adults, also published by Harvard researchers, suggests that 45,000 Americans die each year because they lack health insurance. The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, indicates that lack of health insurance increases the likelihood of mortality by 40 percent.

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

In the more recent study of uninsured veterans, Harvard doctors used Census data from March to determine that there were 1,461,615 veterans between 18 and 64 without insurance in 2008. Using this figure, researchers projected that 2,266 veterans suffered preventable deaths last year.

Harvard Medical School professor Dr. Steffie Woolhandler said that "most uninsured vets are working people - too poor to afford private coverage but not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid or means-tested VAcare." She called the situation a "disgrace."

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Posted: November 10, 2009

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