A matter of life and death

A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH…. For Democratic lawmakers who are on the fence about whether to kill health care reform, research like this should have some influence.

As members of the Obama administration and Congress met on Thursday to try to find common ground on health care, a new report warned that without comprehensive legislation, more than 275,000 adults nationwide will die over the next decade because of a lack of health insurance. […]

An earlier study by the Institute of Medicine estimated that 18,000 people died prematurely in 2000 because they lacked insurance; the Urban Institute updated that figure to 22,000 in 2006. The new study, by liberal advocacy group Families USA, applied the same methodology used in the previous reports to drill down and calculate, on both a national and state-by-state basis, the latest figures.

“This is only the tip of the iceberg, and the most severe consequence, which is death,” said Kathleen Stoll, director of health policy at Families USA. In addition, thousands of other citizens, perhaps millions, are experiencing a reduction in the quality of their lives and their health because they lack insurance, she said.

By now, the reasons to pass a reform package into law should be pretty obvious — the status quo is a dysfunctional mess that burdens families, strains budgets, and undermines the economy.

But for some, we’re literally talking about a life-or-death situation. For adult Americans under the age of 65 — those, in other words, who can’t qualify for our wildly popular socialized-medicine program — 68 people die every day due to lack of coverage. By the end of the decade, it will be 84 Americans per day.

A growing body of research has explored the connection between a lack of health insurance and an increased risk of death. Uninsured people are more likely to skip screenings and other preventive care, so their medical problems are often diagnosed later, when they are more advanced and tougher to treat. The uninsured are also more likely to skimp on necessary medical care, whether it’s prescription drugs to keep their blood pressure in check or surgery to clear up clogged arteries.

“The bottom line is that if you don’t get a disease picked up early and you don’t get necessary treatment, you’re more likely to die,” said Stan Dorn, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute and the author of the organization’s earlier study.

It doesn’t have to be this way. No other industrialized democracy on the planet tolerates such cruelty.

Pass. The. Damn. Bill.