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Press release
June 20, 2012

Each Year, Dozens of Uninsured Delawareans Die Prematurely 

Affordable Care Act Promises Relief from Tragedy of Premature Deaths; Loss of Reform Would Mean Continuing Nightmare for Many American Families Stakes in Debate over "Obamacare" for Too Many Americans: Life or Death
Washington, D.C.—While the nation’s attention remains focused on legal and political fights over health reform, including an imminent ruling by the Supreme Court on the matter, a too-often invisible tragedy continues to play out nationwide for uninsured families who struggle to get the health care they need. Hundreds of Americans die prematurely every week simply and primarily because they have not had access to health coverage.

The number of deaths nationally and in every state are detailed in a report released today by the consumer advocacy organization Families USA, which found that, in 2010, more than 26,000 Americans between the ages of 25 and 64 died prematurely because they did not have health coverage. For Delaware, those national figures translate to 56 deaths, or approximately one Delawarean every week.

The reasons for a lack of coverage for Americans between the ages of 25 and 64 vary. Many Americans have had coverage denied because of pre-existing conditions. Many others, particularly during the recent economic downturn, have been priced out of the insurance market as they have struggled to maintain homes and feed their families in the face of continually rising insurance premiums. Still other families have fallen victim to the decade-long decline in job-based coverage.

While the reasons for lack of coverage vary, other facts are fixed:

  • Between 2005 and 2010, the number of people who died prematurely due to a lack of health coverage each year rose from 20,350 to 26,100.
  • Between 2005 and 2010, the total number of people who died prematurely due to a lack of health coverage was 134,120.
  • Each and every state sees premature deaths due to a lack of health insurance. In 2010, the number of premature deaths due to a lack of health coverage ranged from 28 in Vermont to 3,164 in California.

One striking aspect of our national health care system is the fact that the uninsured in Delaware and other states pay more for medical care, mainly because uninsured Delawareans are unable to negotiate the same discounts on hospital and doctor charges that insurance companies do. As a result, uninsured Delawareans and other uninsured Americans often go without screenings and preventive care, or they often delay or forgo needed medical care.

These and other factors result in uninsured Delawareans and other uninsured Americans being sicker and dying earlier than those who have insurance: In 2010 in Delaware, approximately 56 people died prematurely because they did not have health coverage. That means that a lack of health coverage led to a premature death for approximately one person each week and approximately five people each month in Delaware.

"The Affordable Care Act was passed by Congress to address an American tragedy and an American shame," Ron Pollack, Executive Director of Families USA said today. "The fact remains that for the millions of Americans without health coverage, only the Affordable Care Act offers the promise of access to affordable coverage and to a longer and healthier life.

"For almost 50 million Americans, not having health insurance isn’t trivial, or just an inconvenience or a minor budget challenge. Because of the way we currently provide and charge for health care, many millions of Americans without health coverage are denied regular access to quality care, and many of these people face an unjust sentence of a less healthy life and an earlier death."

"Now the life of the Affordable Care Act itself has been put in jeopardy," Pollack said. "Getting rid of the Affordable Care Act, as some seek, wipes out the broad access to coverage that is coming in 2014, when millions of Americans will be eligible for assistance with the cost of health coverage, and when insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions or charge them higher premiums.

"The Affordable Care Act lets us wake up from this terrible health care nightmare of premature death. Wiping out health reform means the nightmare will continue for Delawareans and other Americans."

The Families USA report, "Dying for Coverage: The Deadly Consequences of Being Uninsured," is built on the methodology of a groundbreaking report released by the Institute of Medicine in 2002. That report, "Care without Coverage: Too Little, Too Late," established the direct link between a lack of health coverage and premature death.