Discussion about health-care reform is getting more heated and more complicated. Debates rage about how much it will cost, if it will be effective, how it will affect the quality of care, and what it will mean for insurance companies and consumers/users. While all these issues are of importance, what is missing in the discussion is the simple fact that people are dying unnecessarily because of lack of a universal-health-care system.
According to “Dying for Coverage, New State Reports” (from Families USA, March-April 2008), “In 2002, the Institute of Medicine released a groundbreaking report, Care without Coverage: Too Little, Too Late, which estimated that 18,000 adults nationwide died in 2000 because they did not have health insurance. Subsequently, The Urban Institute estimated that 22,000 adults died in 2006 because they did not have health insurance. To find out what this means for people across the nation, Families USA has generated the first-ever state-level estimates of the number of deaths due to lack of health insurance. In Minnesota an estimated 1,100 people between the ages of 25-64 died from 2000-2006 because they didn’t have health care. Across the US, the numbers who die from lack of health care is twice that of people who die from homicides.”
There is worse news. Uninsured Americans are sicker, uninsured adults are 25 percent more likely to die prematurely, and Americans between 55 and 64 are at much greater risk of premature death than their insured counterparts.This makes lack of health insurance the third leading cause of death for the near-elderly, following heart disease and cancer.
The issue isn’t cost, quality …
Read those numbers again. The issue of health-care reform isn’t about cost, or quality of care, or survival of the insurance industry. It is about life and death. Anyone who thinks differently simply is ignoring the facts. And when it comes to issues of life and death, ignorance is something we cannot afford.
Our representatives in Congress, in both the House and Senate, need to realize the gravity of their responsibility. While they cavalierly decide to put off the vote on reform until after their August vacation/recess, people will surely die because of their inaction. Members of Congress — who enjoy their own benefits of health coverage provided by the general public — thumb their noses at those Americans who struggle every day with the lack of appropriate health care. Yes, some will surely die unnecessarily during their hiatus.
It is time to inform those members of Congress who refuse to engage seriously in reforming health care in America and refuse to consider a reasonable public option with universal coverage that their actions, or lack thereof, absolutely result in the deaths of American citizens. Shame on them.
We need to understand that there are members of Congress who don’t care whether people live or die. And we must take a stand that they should be removed or reminded of their moral obligation to protect the life of all citizens of our country. Congress should not delay. I pray they act before others die needlessly.
Rob Shumer is a lecturer at the University of Minnesota in the College of Education and Human Development. He teaches in the areas of civic engagement, service-learning and participatory evaluation.