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135,000 Will Die Due to Lack of Insurance Before Health Reform Takes Effect, Study Finds

Death toll estimate exceeds the total number of Americans who died in the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the attacks of 9/11 combined.
 
 
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If Democrats manage to pull off efforts to reform the US healthcare system and ensure coverage for millions who are currently without insurance, the new system -- by design -- will likely still leave tens of thousands to die without insurance before reforms kick in.

A Raw Story analysis, based on a recent Harvard Medical School study, estimates that 135,000 American citizens and over 6,600 US veterans will die due to a lack of health insurance before current proposed healthcare reform measures would take effect.

One hundred and thirty-five thousand US lives far exceeds the total number of Americans who died in the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the attacks of 9/11 combined. The lives of over 6,600 US veterans is more -- by over 1,300 -- than the total number of US soldiers who have thus far died in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, a professor of medicine at Harvard University and co-author of the Harvard Medical School study, called Raw Story's estimates "quite reasonable."

Even more shocking is that these are conservative estimates.

Health reform policy experts who spoke with Raw Story confirmed that the House and Senate bills would do virtually nothing for currently uninsured Americans until 2013 and 2014, respectively. Raw Story's calculations are based on the House health reform bill's projections. The Senate bill, however, would add another year of lethal lag time, driving up the estimated death rate by tens of thousands more US citizens and veterans.

In part, the proposed Senate and House healthcare reform bills don't begin providing comprehensive coverage for several years because they are designed to meet President Obama's promised goal of creating a "deficit-neutral" healthcare package.

Raw Story's analysis is based on a recent Harvard Medical School study published in the American Journal of Public Health and a subsequent report by a team of Harvard Medical School researchers who took part in the initial study.

The first study revealed that approximately 45,000 Americans die each year from lack of health insurance. The second study, released on the eve of this past Veterans Day, estimated that more than 2,200 US veterans died in 2008 due to a lack of health insurance.

In an interview with Raw Story, Dr. David Himmelstein, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and co-author of the two studies, also pointed out a rarely discussed fact: The proposed reforms in both the House and Senate bills, even in the long run, would still leave "vast numbers" of Americans uninsured and those who are partially insured with inadequate coverage.

In the House bill, for instance, even after uninsured Americans would begin receiving health insurance, a projected 18 million would still not be covered; roughly 23 million would remain uninsured in the Senate bill.

"So basically they've taken the bad approach and the slow approach both," said Himmelstein, a proponent of a national single-payer healthcare system. "And there's no particular reason other than political expediency why either of those things should exist."

Veterans' advocate says analysis 'very disturbing'

Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, called Raw Story's analysis "very disturbing" and said the "tragic" numbers demand "immediate action by the President of the United States."

"Veterans for Common Sense is outraged that, in 2009, veterans are dying because of a lack of healthcare," Sullivan said. "We believe healthcare is a human right."

He did, however, credit President Obama for taking steps to reverse what he described as former President Bush's "deplorable" legacy of neglecting veterans' health.

 
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