A study released last week by the non-profit healthcare consumer advocacy group Families USA found that in 2010, 26,100 people between the ages of 25 and 64 died prematurely due to a lack of health insurance.
The study, "Dying for Coverage: The Deadly Consequences of Being Uninsured" was released just one week before the Supreme Court decided the fate of the individual mandate requiring all Americans to purchase health insurance and perhaps the fate of the entire health reform law.
"The Affordable Care Act was passed by Congress to address an American tragedy and an American shame," said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, in a press release announcing the study. "The fact remains that for the millions of Americans without health coverage, only the Affordable Care Act offers the promise of access to affordable coverage and to a longer and healthier life."
The new report is used the same methodology of an earlier study "Care without Coverage: Too Little, Too Late" conducted by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 2002. The IOM data showed that 10 years ago, nearly 18,000 Americans died prematurely. Since then, the number of people suffering premature death has continued to rise.
According to the new report, the premature death rate due to lack of health insurance translated to 2,175 deaths each month; 502 premature deaths each week; 72 premature deaths each day, which translates into roughly 3 people dying prematurely each hour.
It also found that the number of premature deaths continues to rise. Over a six year period from 2005 to 2010 the study reported that premature deaths due to a lack of health insurance increased to 26,100 in 2010 from 20,350 in 2005. In all, it estimated more than 134,000 people died prematurely in that period.
The uninsured face a number of barriers to gaining access to quality healthcare and, as a result, are sicker and die earlier than those with health insurance.
Among the contributing factors to their poorer health, the uninsured often lack a regular source of care and according to a 2012 study from the Commonwealth Fund, of those seeking a new primary care doctor in the past more than half (51 percent) said it was "somewhat difficult" or "very difficult" to finding a new doctor.
Further, the uninsured often delay seeking care due to financial limitations and often don't even get necessary screenings or preventive care services.
All these findings, notes Families USA, are proof positive of the need to preserve the Affordable Care Act, as is.
"Getting rid of the Affordable Care Act, as some seek, wipes out the broad access to coverage coming in 2014, when millions of Americans will be eligible for assistance with the cost of health coverage, and when insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions or charge them higher premiums," added Pollack. "The Affordable Care Act lets us wake up from this terrible health care nightmare of premature death."