* Study ties 26,000 deaths to lack of health insurance
* Uninsured face 25 percent greater risk of mortality
* Court ruling on Obama reforms put 'lives on the line'
By David Morgan
WASHINGTON, June 20 More than 26,000 working-age
adults die prematurely in the United States each year because
they lack health insurance, according to a study published ahead
of a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling on President Barack
Obama's healthcare reform law.
The study, released on Wednesday by the consumer advocacy
group Families USA, estimates that a record high of 26,100
people aged 25 to 64 died for lack of health coverage in 2010,
up from 20,350 in 2005 and 18,000 in 2000.
That makes for a rate of about 72 deaths per day, or three
The nonprofit group based its findings on data from the U.S.
Census Bureau, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
and a 2002 Institute of Medicine study that showed the uninsured
face a 25 percent higher risk of death than those with coverage.
The findings are in line with a study by the Urban Institute
think tank that estimated 22,000 deaths nationwide in 2006.
Families USA Executive Director Ron Pollack said the group
released the study to illustrate the potential human toll behind
a high court ruling that could overturn the 2010 Patient
Protection and Affordable Care Act by the end of next week.
"Lives are truly on the line," said Pollack, who supports
the reform law. "If the Affordable Care Act moves forward and we
expand coverage for tens of millions of people, the number of
avoidable deaths due to being uninsured will decrease
The reform law would extend coverage to more than 30 million
Americans who are uninsured. But 26 U.S. states have asked the
Supreme Court to overturn the legislation on grounds that it
exceeds the government's constitutional authority.
The $2.6 trillion U.S. healthcare system, which represents
nearly 18 percent of the economy, is accessible to most
working-age Americans only through private health insurance. But
insurance costs - premiums, deductibles, copays and co-insurance
- are unaffordable for many and increasing.
U.S. Census data show that 50 million Americans lack
coverage, and experts say those in such straits forego medical
care, doctor visits and preventive tests including cancer and
blood pressure screenings.
"The uninsured get healthcare about half as often as insured
Americans, on average," said Dr. Arthur Kellermann, director of
the think tank RAND Health and co-chairman of the committee that
produced the 2002 IOM study.
"There is an overwhelming body of evidence that they get
less preventive care, less chronic disease care and poorer
quality hospital in-patient care," he said.
Pollack and other healthcare advocates say the number of
uninsured will continue to rise without reform as healthcare
costs accelerate, employers scale back on benefits for their
workers, and the social safety net frays under fiscal pressures.
The Families USA study includes a state-by-state breakdown
on uninsured deaths. The list excludes Massachusetts, which
adopted reforms similar to the Affordable Care Act in 2006. The
group said it was concerned that statistics on uninsured people
for the state might not accurately reflect the growing rate of
IOM's 2002 report, "Care Without Coverage: Too Little, Too
Late," based its finding of a 25 percent higher mortality risk
for the uninsured based on thousands of scientific studies
analyzed as part of a multi-year effort that produced six
reports in all.
"The figure was as rigorous as could be done with the huge
amount evidence we had at the time," Kellermann said.
(Reporting By David Morgan; Editing by Richard Chang)