In California, Thousands Die Prematurely For Lack of Health Insurance

Viji Sundaram
New America Media / News Report
Published: Thursday 21 June 2012
“Because of the size of its population and the large number of its uninsured, California, more than any other state, has a great stake in the outcome of the Supreme Court’s decision.”
Article image

As the nation anxiously awaits the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the constitutionality of the health care reform law that guarantees health coverage for all Americans, a study released today shows that California has the highest number of people who die prematurely each year because they do not have health insurance.

In 2010 alone, about 3,164 Californians between the ages of 25 and 64 died prematurely for lack of health insurance, said the study released by Families USA, the national organization for health care consumers. That translates to about 61 Californians every week. Nationwide, 26,000 Americans in that same age group, died last year for the same reason.

“The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed by Congress to address an American tragedy and an American shame,” Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, said today during a media teleconference. “The fact remains that for the millions of Americans without health coverage, only the Affordable Care Act offers the promise of access to affordable coverage and to a longer and healthier life.”

Since it was signed into law in March 2014, a number of states have challenged the constitutionality of some of the provisions in the ACA, particularly one requiring all Americans to have health insurance. Nationwide, there are currently 50 million of them who don’t, nearly 7 million of them in California. The high court is expected to announce its decision any day now.

Between 2005 and 2010, the number of people who died prematurely due to a lack of health coverage each year rose from 20,350 to 26,100 nationwide, the study indicated.
 And between 2005 and 2010, the total number of people who died prematurely due to a lack of health coverage was 134,120.

The Families USA study applied the groundbreaking methodology developed by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 2002 to determine mortality data on a state-by-state basis.

High as the newly-released figures are, they are conservative because researchers for the IOM study did not include children and young adults under 25, noted Pollack.

In California, like in the rest of the nation, a large percentage of the Hispanic population is uninsured. According to US Census data, California’s Hispanic population comprises 38 percent of the 32 million people living in the state. Many work low-wage jobs that make it difficult for them to access health care, which could explain why the state’s premature death rate is so high, Pollack said.

Compared to residents of other states, Californians are less likely to be insured, receive employer-based coverage, and be able to afford coverage. Californians are also at greater risk of being denied coverage for pre-existing conditions than the rest of the nation. 

Dick Woodruff of the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network noted that even though much of the ACA has not been implemented yet, the provisions that have already rolled out are saving lives.

For cancer patients, in particular, having health insurance translates into survival. He said 1.6 million people will be diagnosed with the disease this year, and 75,000 of them will likely die.

He said the provision that requires insurance companies to provide children and adults with pre-existing conditions coverage could save many of them.

“For almost 50 million Americans, not having health insurance isn’t trivial, or just an inconvenience or a minor budget challenge,” Pollack said. “Because of the way we currently provide and charge for health care, many millions of Americans without health coverage are denied regular access to quality care, and many of these people face an unjust sentence of a less healthy life and an earlier death.”

Because of the size of its population and the large number of its uninsured, California, more than any other state, has a “great stake” in the outcome of the Supreme Court’s decision, noted Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access, during a press conference June 19.

He said the state has been “aggressively implementing” the ACA to maximize its benefits. About 50,000 Californians will lose health care coverage if the high court strikes down the law. If it is upheld in its entirety, nearly 90 percent of Californians will get coverage, he said.

But regardless of the high court’s decision, California will move “full steam ahead” in its efforts to cover its citizenry.

The state has already taken pre-emptive steps in that direction by passing more than a dozen of its own health care laws that will uphold some of the benefits of the ACA. For instance, children and adults with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied coverage. And young adults can remain on their parents’ insurance plan until they turn 26.

Another state law will allow for the creation of a Benefit Exchange – a virtual marketplace with affordable insurance programs. Only it wouldn’t have the federal subsidies promised in the ACA, nor could it offer state subsidies, given the state’s fiscal problems.

But “it could continue in a more scaled down form… to be a place to easily buy coverage,” Wright said. “But fewer people would be in it.”

Constitutional law expert Adam Winkler said it would be an “unprecedented decision” on the part of the Supreme Court to strike down the law in its entirety. 

“The Supreme Court has never struck down a federal spending policy,” he asserted.



Get Email Alerts from NationofChange
ABOUT Viji Sundaram

Healthcare editor for New American Media, a national collaborative of 2000 ethnic news organizations in the US and overseas

Top Stories

9 comments on "In California, Thousands Die Prematurely For Lack of Health Insurance"

REDNEK

June 22, 2012 8:48pm

Good grief. It's clear this blog has been targeted by radical-right trolls. How about:

"It's their own goddamn fault for having the bad sense to be born into non-wealthy families! Goddamn commies!"

I'm guessing the trolls have an average income of $37,000, an average educational level of 8th grade, and an average IQ below 100 -- but believe conservative policies are good for them because they will soon be among the 1%. Quandary: how do you improve a nation where at least 50 percent of the citizens are uninformed, completely lacking in intellectual curiosity, and susceptible to even the most insipid right-wing propaganda?

drwhite

June 25, 2012 11:44am

Again it occurs here. Every time there is a dissenting voice to the liberal left, name calling begins. "right wing trolls". In not one of the comments so far has anyone belittled, or called any of the commentors on the liberal side any foul name. This seems to be the only retort that liberals can come back with. Name calling. The libs see themselves as better than anyone else, more educated...... Not so. Just not so.

drwhite

June 22, 2012 9:59am

And thus the reasoning behind proper immigration. On Ellis Island they screened every individual for disease and bad health for "their benefit" as well as the existing populace. If you allow anybody to cross your borders you are inviting the spread of disease. Look at the rise in measles, whooping cough, and sexually transmitted diseases. Screening and proper admission into a country is not cruelty, or bigotry, but a way to keep the populace safe.

joe baublis

June 21, 2012 8:05pm

Wrongo bungo Viji. I checked the Center for Disease Control for "causes of death" and your lack of insurance is not on the list. There's also a dispute regarding the so-called "methodology" that the IOM claims to have used in drawing conclusions about cause of death. For example, there's a difference between "mortality" and "cause of death". In addition, IOM used a very small sampling and "extrapolated" the result. In other words, they fudged it. Viji, I'm sure you mean well, but in order to prove that insurance causes death, the IOM would have to conduct a wide variety of studies for many decades, and their results would have to be published and critiqued by health experts, and then other institutes would have to produce the same results. None of this has happened. You may want to consider the notion that IOM is a political organization and therefore their "methodology" is biased.

REDNEK

June 22, 2012 8:50pm

No medical professional will ever list "lack of insurance" as a cause of death, moron.

Wilfrid

June 21, 2012 7:11pm

I'm unaware of any death certificate stating "Lack of health insurance" as cause of death.

Compulsory health insurance provides the health industry with funds that can be increased at will to meet the demands of the industry.

It does not provide better medicine but more expensive medicine only. The best example is Europe - Germans now pay 15.4% of their wages in health insurance and the employer matches this, so the industry cashes in 30.8% (up from 20% three decades ago) of 115.4%, that's more than all other taxes combined.

Complementary Alternative Medicine, CAM Therapies are covered. This reduces the overall costs and gives the patient the freedom of choice.

In the US, however, CAM therapies are not covered, so the patient has no freedom of choice but has to submit to treatments chosen by the system.
This argument seems to elude the public and policy makers alike.

A selection of over 100 CAM therapies is on www.infoholix.net and a way to build a sensible health system is here:
http://infoholix.net/category.php?mId=111

Brian Glennie

June 21, 2012 3:54pm

Healthcare, like education should be a right of all citizens.

joe baublis

June 21, 2012 8:12pm

What makes a right? Is everything we want a right? American citizens have the "right" to a jury trial prior to execution, but the president assassinated an American without a trial. So we don't even know what rights are, and the government disregards them anyway. How about the right to be free? Do I have the right to say "no" I don't want the government's health insurance? Apparently not. So rights in America are useless.

enuf

June 21, 2012 1:27pm

This has nothing to do with the fact that there is no Medi-caid /Medi-Cal for anyone under 65 who isn't on welfare, blind, disabled, in a nursing home, pregnant, a refugee, with cervical or breast cancer, I'm sure. Well at least cervical and breast cancer are covered.