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Reuters Touts Pro Obama-Care Study

From a ready to print anything that will help the cause Reuters:

Uninsured patient Yulisa Mateo, 9, has an eye test at Venice Family Clinic in Venice, California, June 25, 2009.

Study links 45,000 U.S. deaths to lack of insurance

By Susan Heavey

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Nearly 45,000 people die in the United States each year — one every 12 minutes — in large part because they lack health insurance and can not get good care, Harvard Medical School researchers found in an analysis released on Thursday.

"We’re losing more Americans every day because of inaction … than drunk driving and homicide combined," Dr. David Himmelstein, a co-author of the study and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard, said in an interview with Reuters

The Harvard study, funded by a federal research grant, was published in the online edition of the American Journal of Public Health. It was released by Physicians for a National Health Program, which favors government-backed or "single-payer" health insurance.

An [sic] similar study in 1993 found those without insurance had a 25 percent greater risk of death, according to the Harvard group. The Institute of Medicine later used that data in its 2002 estimate showing about 18,000 people a year died because they lacked coverage.

Part of the increased risk now is due to the growing ranks of the uninsured, Himmelstein said. Roughly 46.3 million people in the United States lacked coverage in 2008, the U.S. Census Bureau reported last week, up from 45.7 million in 2007.

Another factor is that there are fewer places for the uninsured to get good care. Public hospitals and clinics are shuttering or scaling back across the country in cities like New Orleans, Detroit and others, he said.

Study co-author Dr. Steffie Woolhandler said the findings show that without proper care, uninsured people are more likely to die from complications associated with preventable diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

Some critics called the study flawed.

The National Center for Policy Analysis, a Washington think tank that backs a free-market approach to health care, said researchers overstated the death risk and did not track how long subjects were uninsured.

Woolhandler said that while Physicians for a National Health Program supports government-backed coverage, the Harvard study’s six researchers closely followed the methodology used in the 1993 study conducted by researchers in the federal government as well as the University of Rochester in New York.

The Harvard researchers analyzed data on about 9,000 patients tracked by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics through the year 2000. They excluded older Americans because those aged 65 or older are covered by the U.S. Medicare insurance program…

We question of the timing of this report. And we also question the numbers.

The Institute of Medicine later used that data in its 2002 estimate showing about 18,000 people a year died because they lacked coverage.

We are supposed to believe that the number of those dying from lack of insurance coverage has far more than doubled in just six years? Six years of unprecedented prosperity and high employment?

Or should we instead believe that these numbers are just pulled out of thin air? For some reason we are leaning towards the latter position.

As we have previously noted, the Census Bureau’s website provides some numbers about the uninsured from 2007 and 2008:

Health Insurance Coverage: 2008

  • The percentage of people without health insurance in 2008 was not statistically different from 2007 at 15.4 percent
  • The number of people with health insurance increased to 255.1 million in 2008 — up from 253.4 million in 2007The number of people covered by government health insurance increased to 87.4 million — up from 83.0 million in 2007
  • The percentage of people covered by government health insurance programs increased to 29.0 percent in 2008, from 27.8 percent in 2007. The percentage and the number of people covered by Medicaid increased to 14.1 percent and 42.6 million in 2008, from 13.2 percent and 39.6 million in 2007. The percentage and number of people covered by Medicare increased to 14.3 percent and 43.0 million in 2008, from 13.8 percent and 41.4 million in 2007.
  • In 2008, the percentage and number of children under 18 without health insurance were 9.9 percent and 7.3 million, lower than they were in 2007 at 11.0 percent and 8.1 million. The uninsured rate and the number of uninsured for children are the lowest since 1987, the first year that comparable health insurance data were collected
  • The uninsured rate and number of uninsured for non-Hispanic Whites increased in 2008 to 10.8 percent and 21.3 million, from 10.4 percent and 20.5 million in 2007
  • The percentage of uninsured Hispanics decreased to 30.7 percent in 2008, from 32.1 percent in 2007

We are especially skeptical of the ‘45,000 deaths a year’ claim after having paid a visit to the website of the organization which did this study, Physicians for a National Health Program – Health Care Is A Human Right. (That is the name of their site.)

On their front page we found this announcement:

Our Mission: Single-Payer National Health Insurance

The U.S. spends twice as much as other industrialized nations on health care, $7,129 per capita. Yet our system performs poorly in comparison and still leaves 45.7 million without health coverage and millions more inadequately covered.

This is because private insurance bureaucracy and paperwork consume one-third (31 percent) of every health care dollar. Streamlining payment through a single nonprofit payer would save more than $400 billion per year, enough to provide comprehensive, high-quality coverage for all Americans…

We also found this “action alert” from one of the ‘researchers’ herself:

Dear President Obama: endorse single payer

Read and sign the Open Letter

Steffie Woolhandler, MD

Tell President Obama that single-payer health reform is the only practicable way to achieve his stated goal of universal, comprehensive coverage at an affordable price.

Only single payer, by redirecting the vast sums wasted annually on bureaucracy and paperwork back into care, can assure high-quality coverage for everyone with no net increase in U.S. health spending. Only single payer can rein in costs.

Lesser reforms, with or without a “public option,” won’t fix our broken system.

Read and sign the Open Letter

Drs. Steffie Woolhandler and Quentin Young testified before Congress on June 24. Read their testimony and get additional analysis and lobbying materials here

No, no bias there.

Indeed, you can be sure this study is just as ‘scientific’ as the the Reuters article is ‘objective.’

This article was posted by Steve Gilbert on Friday, September 18th, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

14 Responses to “Reuters Touts Pro Obama-Care Study”

  1. Perhaps Lancet helped with these figures.

    The problem with liberals on this issue is the same problem with liberals on every issue: they feel gub’mint is the central planning panacea for everything – despite decades of evidence to the contrary.

    But, of course, this has nothing to do with health care, and everything to do with POWER.

    • As the old saying is stated: This country is going to he– in a hand basket………and fast. The longer this socialist is in office the farther from capitalism we are getting. Sad isn’t it?

  2. proreason

    Maybe common sense can help with this issue.

    Everybody over 65 already has health insurance. Medicare.

    Who dies nowadays under the age of 65? Almost all deaths under 65 are due to accidents, suicide, violence and life-style choices like drugs and alcohol. Many of the remaining deaths are due to morbid obesity. Many of the remaining deaths are due to genetic factors (heart conditions, genetic susceptability to cancers). Many of the remaining deaths are due to neglect (ignored the symptoms). Many of the remaining deaths were people who had health insurance. Many of the remaining deaths could have been prevented if the person had gone to an emergency room. Many of the remaining deaths couldn’t have been prevented by any form of modern medicine.

    To say that 45,000 deaths resulted from a lack of health insurance doesn’t pass a smell test.

    But let’s also look at it another way.

    The country has 30,000,000 people without Health Insurance. That must be a fact because the Moron said it in his latest lecture to the country. The average lifespan in the country is 78, but that includes infant mortality, so if you don’t die at birth it’s higher. But to be conservative, let’s use 75 years.

    That means about 200,000 uninsured people die annually.

    Would any rational person suggest that 45,000 (24% of all deaths of uninsured people) die because of a lack of health insurance? It’s ludicrous to even suggest it.

    • MinnesotaRush

      I searched for “death certificates indicating as a cause of death .. no health insurance”.

      Got no results. Must be some mistake. :-)

  3. MinnesotaRush

    “Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee. I’m Steffie Woolhandler. I am a primary care doctor in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and associate professor of medicine at Harvard. I also co-founded Physicians for a National Health Program. Our 16,000 physician members support nonprofit, single-payer national health insurance because of overwhelming evidence that lesser reforms — even with a robust public plan option – will fail.”

    S’pose she knows Skippy Gates – o-blah-blah’s other infamous professor buddy?

  4. bullforever

    …so 45,000 peopel die every year. Universal health coverage is supposed to change this statistic over some period of time? How pray tell? Will Universal health coverage impart immortaility to certain people?

    even if the numbers are true, and 18,000 people die prematurely each year as a result of not having health insurance, all 18,000 will still die. The only result would be to defer thier deaths for some period of time, however, since all of us will reach the same end game, the number of total deaths each year will remain the same…maybe what, a 5 year dip in total death rate, until such time as nature catches up and the total death rate is back to normal?

  5. Well, if there are 300 million people in the US, it would not be too far off to guess at about 3 million deaths a year. If 45,000 of these die because they *dont* have health insurance, then 2,955,000 of these die because they *do* have private health insurance, right?

    Which explains the Democrat fixiation on getting rid of private insurance. They only are caring for our own good. (and their power)

    • scottiegazelle

      EXCELLENT analysis, Georgelis! Maybe the govt should get to work on “helping” the almost 3 million people who die with health care…wait… ;)

  6. w3bgrrl

    From the Abstract:

    “Among all participants, 3.1% (95% confidence interval [CI]=2.5%, 3.7%) died. The hazard ratio for mortality among the uninsured compared with the insured, with adjustment for age and gender only, was 1.80 (95% CI=1.44, 2.26). After additional adjustment for race/ethnicity, income, education, self- and physician-rated health status, body mass index, leisure exercise, smoking, and regular alcohol use, the uninsured were more likely to die (hazard ratio=1.40; 95% CI=1.06, 1.84) than those with insurance.”

    A hazard ratio (HR) of 1 means no difference in the “have insurance” group and the “does not have insurance” group. The formula for converting hazard ratio to probability is HR/(1+HR). With a HR of 1, probability is 50%. HR in this study is 1.4. Probability is 58.333%.

    Evidently insurance is no insurance against death. Who woulda thunk it?

  7. A far more interesting study is the number of deaths resulting from medical errors. The numbers are surprising.

  8. There was an incredible revelation on Stephanopoulos’s show! Obama actually said that in the 5 plans there was about 80% of what he wanted to see in the health care bill!!
    This means that all this time he has been pushing this mythical bill that exists only in his head. This bill must contain all the stuff we thought he was lying about. No coverage for illegals. No coverage for abortion. No panels to oversee cost control effective solutions (kill old white, Jewish and oriental men – not under represented minorities or women.)

    Shazzam I see the light! Let’s all support this wonderful bill! Count me in. This is a game changer for me. I want to apologize for thinking that you were a liar o’ exalted President Obama, the most merciful.

    I hope the rest of you see the light. we need to all get together and start pressing for this plan. We need to blog for Obama. Call your friends. Be the first in your group to show your support.

    • proreason

      I support removing the defense system around Obama. All it does is get his enemies mad at him. He should sit down and discuss their differences with him with no preconditions.

      Can’t we all just get along?

  9. bill

    Steve Milloy of junk science debunked this whole study. It’s the old carrot ruse … If you died in the last year and had eaten carrots in the last year before your death, you died of carrot poisoning.

    Everyone knows carrots can kill you.

    The study goes into details.

    The study is 100% bunk — junk science. More here … http://tarpon.wordpress.com/20.....rrot-joke/


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