As the Trump administration works to overturn the Affordable Care Act, saying this week that it supports a federal judge’s ruling that strikes down the law in its entirety, it bears reminding that prior to the ACA’s implementation, lack of health care coverage led to nearly 45,000 deaths annually.
The Harvard Gazette reported in 2009 that a study published online by the American Journal of Public Health, conducted at Harvard Medical School and Cambridge Health Alliance, also “found that uninsured, working-age Americans have a 40 percent higher risk of death than their privately insured counterparts, up from a 25 percent excess death rate found in 1993.”
The study’s lead author Andrew Wilper, M.D., said those without insurance “have a higher risk of death when compared to the privately insured, even after taking into account socioeconomics, health behaviors, and baseline health.”
“We doctors have many new ways to prevent deaths from hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease — but only if patients can get into our offices and afford their medications,” he added.
Analyzing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the study “assessed death rates after taking into account education, income, and many other factors, including smoking, drinking, and obesity” and found that “lack of health insurance causes 44,789 excess deaths annually.”
The increase in deaths associated with lack of health insurance tracks with an increase in the number of uninsured Americans, the Gazette said, as well as an erosion of the medical safety net for those with lesser financial means.
Also contributing to the issue is “the widening gap in the risk of death between those who have insurance and those who do not is the improved quality of care for those who can get it,” the publication reported.
“Historically, every other developed nation has achieved universal health care through some form of nonprofit national health insurance. Our failure to do so means that all Americans pay higher health care costs, and 45,000 pay with their lives,” said Steffie Woolhandler, a co-author of the study, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and a primary care physician at Cambridge Health Alliance.
Fortune Magazine reported that 20.1 million fewer Americans were uninsured in the first six months of 2018 compared to the number lacking insurance in 2010, which is the year the ACA was signed into law.
Should the healthcare law be overturned in full, that number is likely to move in reverse.