WASHINGTONUninsured Americans confront a greater likelihood of poorer
health and premature death than those with private medical and hospital
coverage, a committee of the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of
Medicine (IOM) has concluded.
As an example, it cited studies showing that uninsured patients with breast
or colon cancer have up to a 50% greater chance of dying, compared with such
patients who have private insurance. Going uninsured for even 1 year can
diminish the state of a person’s general health.
The findings run contrary to common belief. The panel noted that a 1999
survey found that 60% of the US public believed that the uninsured received the
health care they needed from physicians and hospitals.
"Because we don’t see many people dying in the streets in this
country, we assume that the uninsured manage to get the care they need, but the
evidence refutes that assumption," said co-chair Mary Sue Coleman, PhD,
president of the Iowa Health System and the University of Iowa. "The fact
is that the quality and length of life are distinctly different for insured and
In its second of six reports examining the consequences for those without
health insurance, the panel addressed a diverse group of problemscancer,
diabetes, HIV infection and AIDS, heart and kidney disease, mental illness,
traumatic injuries, and heart attacks.
In the report, "Care Without Coverage: Too Little, Too Late," the
group focused on these illnesses as they relate to the 30 million uninsured,
working-age Americans younger than 65. It did not address the consequences for
the nation’s nearly 10 million uninsured children.
"It wasn’t difficult for us to conclude that if the uninsured became
insured on a continuous basis, their health would improve and they would live
longer," said co-chair Arthur L. Kellerman, MD, professor and chair,
Department of Emergency Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine.