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 uninsured populations."
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.