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Health Care Advocates Say Thousands Die Due to Lack of Insurance

By Jane Norman, CQ HealthBeat Associate Editor

June 20, 2012 -- More than 26,000 adult Americans under 65 who didn't have health insurance died prematurely in 2010, according to estimates recently released by advocates of the health care overhaul.

Leaders of the advocacy group Families USA said that the 2010 health care law (PL 111-148, PL 111-152) offers the promise of access to medical care for people who might otherwise die. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision on the constitutionality of the law as soon as Thursday, and advocates are working to stress the law's importance.

Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, said in a conference call with reporters that there are 50 million people in the nation lacking health insurance and the court decision on the law is very important for them. "When people are uninsured, what they often do is defer care," and an illness like cancer can spread and prove fatal, he said.

The state-by-state death estimates—which apply to people age 25 to 64—were derived using a methodology developed by the Institute of Medicine for a similar 2002 report, said a Families USA report titled "Dying for Coverage." Scientific research has found that, after controlling for various factors, the absence of insurance increases mortality rates by about 25 percent for adults, said the report.

"We have great confidence in these numbers," said Pollack. He also said the estimates are likely low because the estimates don't include children or young adults.

The reasons for a lack of health insurance include denials for individual policies due to pre-existing health conditions, the rising cost of insurance and decisions by employers to no longer offer health insurance benefits, the report said.

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