Study: 2,000 uninsured Kansans could die

WASHINGTON — Without health insurance reform, 2,000 Kansans without coverage would die over the next decade, according to a nonpartisan health care advocacy group.

They would be among an estimated 275,000 people across the country between ages 25 and 64 and who have no insurance who would also die if Congress does nothing, according to an ongoing study by Families USA.

The study, Lives on the Line: The Deadly Consequences of Delaying Health Reform, reported last month that 5,200 uninsured people in Missouri in the same age bracket would die if health care reform fails.

In a conference call, Families USA executive director Ron Pollack said that failure to adopt health care reform could have "deadly consequences."

President Obama this week signaled a renewed effort to pass reform this spring. He again reached out for Republican support, but made clear that he intended to try to pass a bill however possible. Democrats in the House are now engaged in intense negotiations to try to paper over differences inside their caucus so they can line up behind a bill.

Families USA said that its calculations about deaths among the uninsured are based on a formula used by the Institute of Medicine, the health division of the National Academy of Sciences, in its own 2002 study.

The institute found that 18,000 adults between 25 and 64 had died in 2000 because they had no health coverage.

The Urban Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, later conducted a similar study and estimated that 22,000 uninsured adults died in 2006 for the same reason.

Families USA also estimated the number of deaths among the uninsured nationally and state-by-state since 1995, when health care reform was last attempted, during the Clinton administration.

It estimated that deaths across the country totaled 295,000, including 1,900 in Kansas and 5,000 in Missouri.

Families USA said that the uninsured usually have no recourse for care but hospital emergency rooms, rarely get screenings or preventive care, and delay or go without care altogether.

The group said also said that the uninsured are usually sicker and die earlier.

"A national tragedy is taking place every month due to the lack of health care coverage," said Vivek Murthy, a Boston internist who teaches at Harvard Medical School, who spoke on the conference call.

Murthy is also president of Doctors for America, which supports health care reform.