It is estimated that between 2005 and 2010, 120,000 Americans died because they did not have health insurance. Other estimates are between 20,000 and 45,000 annually, and some say three deaths per hour. And this, in the richest country in the world.
The uninsured are 40 percent more likely to die, according to a Harvard Medical School/Cambridge Health Alliance 2009 study. Why?
- The uninsured are seen by health care providers about half as often as the insured.
- Uninsured women will skip preventive mammograms and pap smears.
- Diabetics may cut down on or skip necessary medications.
- The uninsured are more likely to be seen when their preventable illnesses have reached an advanced stage.
- Health insurance costs are far out-of-reach for their income level.
- Many have a choice between paying for medications and eating.
A study of uninsured in America
Unfortunately, politics is part of the problem in the U.S. When Obamacare became law, states had the option of expanding their Medicaid coverage to more of the poor and nearly-poor. However, 22 of the states, all run by Republicans, refused to do so. This led to several million people remaining without coverage. Hundreds of thousands will suffer needlessly and some will die.
An experiment by Oregon Health Insurance showed that low-income uninsured people will face a greater likelihood of depression, catastrophic medical costs and death. The uninsured pay more for care because they have to pay the going rate.
The uninsured in these states will face loss of financial well-being, access to care, longevity, and mental and physical well-being.
The U.S. and the rest of the world
This doesn't happen in the other industrialized countries. Why? Because they all have universal health coverage. Not only that, they spend much less on health care than we do, and the results are far better. Some examples:
- The U.S. life expectancy at birth is 43rd in the world, according to Central Intelligence Agency 2015 statistics.
- The maternal mortality rate is ranked 45th in the world (CIA, 2015).
- The infant mortality rate is 167th out of 224 (CIA, 2015). Cuba and Bosnia have a better rating than the U.S.
- The death rate is ranked 93rd out of 225 or 8.15 deaths per 1,000.
The World Health Organization (WHO) ranks the U.S. health system 37th in the world.
This, despite the fact that the U.S. spends the most money on health care of all countries. In fact, we are almost double the second highest spender (UK). U.S. spending per person averages out to $9086, while the second place Switzerland citizen pays $6325.
The cost being so high is partially attributable to use of high tech equipment such as MRIs. Another reason given is the fact that the prices for health care are set, and there is no collective buying power. In the UK, for example, the government buys the services, and bargains with health providers for the best quality for the lowest prices. This creates competition. The U.S. now has the highest prices for drugs and medical devices anywhere in the world, and other costs are as high as the provider chooses. And it's all still going up.
Thanks to Obamacare, the uninsured rate has dropped to 9.1% of people under 65, the lowest rate in 50 years. That is still almost one tenth of the population and there is no moral reason justifying this situation. Many politicians in the U.S. love to be seen as devout church-goers, yet for politics they ignore the teaching of their religion: caring for the less fortunate. The United States has no excuse for not joining the rest of the world in concern for its citizens.