Thousands die from lack of health care every year but can we save them?

(Vote3rdpartynow: Now with less crackpottery! – promoted by Garrett Quinn)

People die every year because they lack health insurance.  No doubt that is a fact.  But, what is hard to define exactly is just how many thousands die every year from lack of health care.  Are we about to spend 2 to 3 trillion dollars on a government overhaul of health care in America if the number is only 1 thousand deaths?  How many thousands must die before the numbers make sense?  We allow people to drive cars even though tens of thousands die in auto accidents every year.  We allow people to smoke even though smoking is tied to hundreds of thousands of deaths annually.  So there seems to be some kind of breakeven point where we allow people to die for the sake of maintaining liberty and reducing expense.

Before we can determine that breakeven point we must have an accurate measure of the number of people that die annually from lack of health insurance coverage.

Back in 2002, USA Today reported that approximately 18,000 people died per year from lack of health coverage.  That number came from a report published by the ‘Institute of Medicine’, which is a group of experts that advise Congress on health care issues.  Says the author of the report:

“Our purpose is simply to deliver the facts, and the facts are unequivocal,”

The man sounds rather confident.

The 18,000 deaths per year figure was quoted again in 2007, in an article titled “Living without Health Insurance”. That article appeared on the website for The Center For American Progress, which claims to be a website dedicated to ‘Progressive Ideas for a Strong, Just and Free America’.  Certainly that site would have the latest and greatest figures related to the problem.

At about the same time (2006), The Urban Institute offered its estimate of approximately 22,000 deaths per year from lack of health coverage. That suggests a 22% increase from the 2002 numbers, which I suppose is possible if more people were uninsured and the report, which seemed unequivocal, had some slight flaws.  

But then something funny happened.  Barack Obama becomes President of the United States and suddenly the projected deaths for lack of health coverage jumps from 18,000 to 45,000 per year.  CBS Evening News reported the 45,000 figure in this summary of the Harvard University Study.  How could this be that the number of deaths due to lack of health coverage jumped 250% in just 2 years?  Here is the Harvard Study that is beyond reproach.

The Harvard Study even suggests that it used similar methods of determining the number as the 2002 study of the IOM.

Previous estimates from the IOM and others had put that figure near 18,000. The methods used in the current study were similar to those employed by the IOM in 2002, which in turn were based on a pioneering 1993 study of health insurance and mortality.

But I thought the ‘facts were unequivocal’? And certainly one of the authors of the Harvard study (Steffie Woolhandler) sounds as confident as the author of the IOM report in 2002:

“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.”

So Steffie’s argument is that because we don’t have a universal health care system run by a nonprofit we have 45,000 deaths per year.  Gotcha, I see where this is going now.

Still others, like the National Academy of Sciences suggest the number of deaths per year is 20,000.  And that was posted on Firedoglake (The liberal blog) as recent as 2009.

So what’s clear is that people die when they don’t have health coverage.  I get that, but there is still something missing – how many from these estimates have been removed because they were going to die whether or not they did have insurance?  Believe it or not some people die whether they have health coverage or not.  In fact lots of people die every year that have great health insurance policies and get regular medical attention. Giving these people health insurance is not going to save all their lives.  It might save some, but not all.  And since nobody can agree on whether that number is 18,000 or 45,000 to start we have no idea at all how many lives we can actually save.

The whole issue of ‘deaths due to lack of coverage’ is beginning to sound a lot like the climategate problem.  Fuzzy math surrounded by scientists that believe their facts are unequivocal.  Worse yet is that our government wants to use this fuzzy math to stage a takeover of 1/7th of our US economy.  Don’t ya think we ought to get the numbers straight before we spend 3 trillion dollars?  

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