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Lack of health insurance increases death risk, study finds

A study released this week in Archives of Surgery indicates that trauma sufferers without health insurance were almost twice as likely to die as insured patients.

The study of health insurance and death risk examined the medical records of 687,000 patients between 2002 and 2006.

It found that the risk of death by trauma was 80 percent higher among the uninsured. Researchers separated patients aged 18 to 30, reasoning that their death rates might be lower because they would be healthier – and even among that age group, uninsured trauma victims had an 89 percent higher chance of dying.

The news comes despite the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, a 1986 law that obligates emergency rooms to treat all sick people, even those who lack insurance.

Researchers suggested that the higher death rates among uninsured patients could be blamed on those patients’ poorer health when they sustained trauma. Another possibility is that, because uninsured people are less familiar with doctors and nurses, they were more passive when undergoing treatment.

The study’s authors noted that 45.7 million Americans did not have health insurance in 2007.

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Posted: November 17, 2009

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