20,000 Americans Die Each Year Due To Lack Of Healthcare

From the Frontline documentary "Sick Around America:

According to a study by the National Academy of Sciences, around 20,000 Americans die each year because they can’t get the healthcare they need.

You cannot reform medical care and coverage without (a) covering everyone and (b) controlling costs. But how you get from here to there? That’s the bazillion dollar question. 

Especially within a system where insurance companies make their profits from denying coverage and sustaining the status quo by trying to make it nearly impossible to change anything without a massive disruption for everyone involved. What’s the bottom line at this point?

Small businesses are fed up with rapidly rising costs and want changes.

– Health insurers may finally be seeing the handwriting on the wall and have begun to offer some concessions.

– Numbers of uninsured Americans are swelling rapidly:

From 1994 to 2007, the number of Americans without health insurance increased by almost 9 million….

– How do we even define health care and its related needs? That’s a subject of considerable debate.

– But public support is rising for a total overhaul of the healthcare system. With one in five Americans lacking health insurance, the need is growing:

"The case for reform couldn’t be clearer," Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said in a news release from the organization, which focuses on health and health-care issues. "Further inaction means that costs rise, businesses struggle and workers go without. As high as the numbers of uninsured people seem to be, they don’t even reflect the current crisis, with millions of Americans losing their jobs, which puts their insurance status in jeopardy. And the more people who become uninsured, the harder it is on our health-care system."

So, how do we answer all the remaining questions and resolve the myriad of enormous problems? That’s the next step.

But if we cannot take those steps now during this enormous opportunity borne through the confluence of economic crisis, desperate need, and longer-term examination of what we have been doing wrong? Then we continue to fail not only ourselves, but all the generations to come. Because the problems will not disappear by magic.

The House and Senate are set to take up plans in the coming week. But which ones? And will they be enough?

Will we continue to simply nibble around the edges? Or really shift fundamentals?  Because, honestly, we cannot afford to just stand still.

10 Responses to "20,000 Americans Die Each Year Due To Lack Of Healthcare"
selise | Thursday April 2, 2009 08:49 am 1

it’s not rocket science. every other industrialized country in the world has done it and we don’t need to re-invent the wheel.

it’s called single payer.

we don’t have $400 billion dollars a year to keep throwing down the rat hole of insurance companies.

no more bailouts. wasn’t AIG enough? TARP? geithner’s latest plan?

selise | Thursday April 2, 2009 08:53 am 2

oh, and christy – in case you didn’t see, i did post a diary as promised on the single payer bill bernie sanders introduced last week:

Senator Bernie Sanders Introduces Single-Payer Healthcare Reform Bill S.703

and BargainCountertenor is going to analyze for us the three single player bills that are now in play!

Christy Hardin Smith | Thursday April 2, 2009 09:06 am 3
In response to selise @ 2

Thanks much — missed it through the cold drug haze!

Rayne | Thursday April 2, 2009 09:52 am 4

I think the National Academy of Science’s number is low by a factor of at least 100%.

I would have figured 20K was the number of infants we lose due to an insufficiency of prenatal health care alone; we lose a couple thousand babies to SIDS each year, and a considerable percentage of those were born to mothers who did not have adequate prenatal care. If we add other major causes of neonatal death — congenital anomalies (5,552), short gestation (4,714), maternal pregnancy complications (1,776) and placenta/cord/membrane problems (1,110) — and look at the outcomes against the availability of health care, I think the infant mortality rate alone is under-represented in National Academy’s figures.

Perhaps they were looking at situations where health care was completely unavailable versus an insufficiency or inadequacy of care, not certain. This is just neonatal mortality (under 1 year of age) which I’m looking at; the numbers are off the map when it comes to the number of adult deaths each year due to heart disease and cancer. In the age group 65 and up there are 910,000-plus deaths each year due to these two causes alone; I’m finding it hard to believe that 10K or less of these deaths were due to lack of health care.

Or perhaps the case of Nikki White in the Frontline documentary really explains it best, that the numbers are fuzzy because at some point there is health care of last resort, but by then patients are on death’s door step. They die covered by Medicaid and therefore don’t get counted as a casualty without health care.

So damned sad; there’s no excuse for this from a country like ours.

Christy Hardin Smith | Thursday April 2, 2009 10:06 am 5
In response to Rayne @ 4

I watched Nikki’s story and thought about what things were like for me before we figured out what I was dealing with was lupus. It’s incredibly painful to have your own body attacking itself, especially when it hits your joints, and have no idea why it is happening.

To have to go through that without the aid of medications was hell. Once we found the ones that worked with my system, life became much more manageable, to the point that I don’t notice much of a difference so long as I get adequate rest and don’t catch a cold or other ick (the immune system issues carry over such that you can’t fight stuff off well — go figure, with a kid in kindergarten, it’s not so easy to avoid).

To watch the part of the show about Nikki and know what she went through — and know how much more manageable it ought to have been for her — solely because she couldn’t get preventative maintenance care? Unbelievably painful to watch for me.

And without Mr. ReddHedd’s insurance from work? That could be me. Just as easily.

Rayne | Thursday April 2, 2009 11:14 am 6
In response to Christy Hardin Smith @ 5

Yes, Nikki’s story is one we will refer to so many times in the months ahead because her story is so resonant with many Americans. Like you.

And like Jane, and Marcy; imagine if they couldn’t afford the health care they needed to fight cancer.

Or my own family, my spouse having been treated for diabetes for 10-plus years and two oral surgeries at $15K each for pre-cancerous cell removals.

Or even my kids, both of them C-section deliveries. Our state’s Blue Cross/Blue Shield program just lowered the amount it will pay for C-sections; new mothers can expect a bill of more than $3K on the average after BCBS pays its share.

And end-of-life care, which has nearly bankrupted my formerly wealthy father-in-law.

Nikki’s story is like looking in the mirror; almost any one of us could have been in her shoes, and without a drastic change soon, any one of us might yet be.

Cujo359 | Thursday April 2, 2009 12:07 pm 7

If the numbers from an AMA study of a few years ago still hold true, for every American who has no health insurance, there’s one who has inadequate insurance – a plan that doesn’t fit their health needs. That makes somewhere in the neighborhood of 35-40 percent of Americans who are endangered by the current system.

There are a couple of different petitions out there on this that I’ve signed in the last few weeks. One supports single-payer. The other one, which is sponsored by Howard Dean, asks that the government part of the Administration’s favored health care plan not be removed.

While I prefer single-payer as a solution, I think the best fallback position is having the option of being in a government-funded health insurance system that uses its costs as a basis for determining its price. Effectively, that provides some of the benefit of single-payer without having to shoulder the insurance companies out of the picture. The reason I mention how the price should be calculated is that I’m sure there will be an attempt to make the price similar to the price of commercial health insurance, whether it needs to be or not.

Anyway, if you haven’t signed either petition, please sign at least the one you think best, if not both.

tejanarusa | Thursday April 2, 2009 12:48 pm 8
In response to Rayne @ 6

Rayne – I was working up a comment, but you have covered it all so beautifully, from birth to death.

Rayne | Thursday April 2, 2009 01:40 pm 9

cujo359 (7) — signed the Dean petition last week; thanks for the reminder, every bit helps.

tejanarusa (8) — wish this wasn’t all so personal, you know? but it does cover the spectrum of our lives. Imagine what this place would be like without the three ladies of the lake at the top of their game because they had no insurance or the ability to pay for health care; it touches us all in some way personally. You probably were going to share something just as personal in your observation, too; we’re none of us untouched, would be the biggest return on our public investment to improve our health care system.

selise | Thursday April 2, 2009 04:58 pm 10

fyi, a must read: we have an expert in the house, who has very kindly looked at the single payer bills now in congress and written a diary on them:

Single Payer Bills in Congress: First Impressions

great place to ask questions and get them answered by a fellow commenter.

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