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Lack of Insurance to Blame for Almost 45,000 Deaths: Study
Date:9/17/2009

Going without coverage greatly increases mortality, researchers conclude ,,,,

THURSDAY, Sept. 17 (HealthDay News) -- If you doubt that lack of health insurance can have deadly consequences, consider these new findings: Americans without health insurance are 40 percent more likely to die than those with private insurance.

As many as 44,789 Americans of working age die each year because they lack health insurance, more than the number who die annually from kidney disease.

The study comes at a pivotal moment in history, as Congress considers legislation to expand health insurance coverage. The findings imply that lack of health insurance isn't just a policy issue, it's a significant health risk.

Being uninsured is associated with a risk of death, "and it turns out to be an elevated risk," said Dr. Andrew P. Wilper, lead author of the study and an instructor at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle.

The study appeared Thursday in the online edition of the American Journal of Public Health.

Wilper, formerly of Harvard Medical School in Boston, and his colleagues used data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, conducted between 1988 and 1994. Their analysis included people aged 17 to 64.

The research replicates a 1993 Institute of Medicine (IOM) study, which found a 25 percent higher death risk among the uninsured compared with privately insured adults.

Due to the margin of error in each study, Wilper can't say whether the risk of death has increased over time. However, if there is an increased risk, he suspects it's because treatments for insured Americans have gotten much better for certain conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes and coronary heart disease.

The study also corroborates certain predictors of mortality among the uninsured. The death risk is higher for men than women, smokers than non-smokers, he
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