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The study results are in. And things are not looking good for the estimated 46 million people who find themselves uninsured in America. The study conducted by Harvard researchers found that the uninsured have a 40% higher risk of death than those who have private health insurance. This is significant increase from the 25% risk of death for the uninsured, determined in a similar study done 16 years ago in 1993.
In a developed nation that is a leader in medical and technological advances--how the can risk of death for its uninsured residents have nearly doubled in the past decades?
The study points to a number of factors to explain the steep increase. First, it highlights the increased difficulty that the uninsured have in finding care. In light of budget constraints and the economic downturn, many public hospitals have shut down or have streamlined free or low-cost services.
Another factor noted by the study is increased difficulty for uninsured to manage chronic conditions. Without the means of being able to meet a doctor regularly and have access to key medications, the uninsured often see a doctor only in urgent situations, and often in the emergency room.
Overall, the study noted that lack of insurance could be associated to as many as 44,789 deaths annually, which is more than the deaths attributed to kidney disease per year.
The study stands to further the war cry for health care reform, which is being debated by the U.S. Congress, Senate, and White House and has been the recent focus of the President's speeches and public appearances.