Tuesday, November 10, 2009

*Over 2,200 veterans died in 2008 due to lack of health insurance*

Mark Almberg, Physicians for a National Health Program, (312) 782-6006,
cell: (312) 622-0996, mark@pnhp.org

*Over 2,200 veterans died in 2008 due to lack of health insurance*

*Harvard researchers say 1.46 million working-age vets lacked health
coverage last year, increasing their death rate*

A research team at Harvard Medical School estimates 2,266 U.S. military
veterans under the age of 65 died last year because they lacked health
insurance and thus had reduced access to care. That figure is more than
14 times the number of deaths (155) suffered by U.S. troops in
Afghanistan in 2008, and more than twice as many as have died (911 as of
Oct. 31) since the war began in 2001.

The researchers, who released their analysis today, pointedly say the
health reform legislation pending in the House and Senate will not
significantly affect this grim picture.

The Harvard group analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s March 2009
Current Population Survey, which surveyed Americans about their
insurance coverage and veteran status, and found that 1,461,615 veterans
between the ages of 18 and 64 were uninsured in 2008. Veterans were only
classified as uninsured if they neither had health insurance nor
received ongoing care at Veterans Health Administration (VA) hospitals
or clinics.

Using their recently published findings in the American Journal of
Public Health (tinyurl.com/l7cy8u) that show being uninsured raises an
individual’s odds of dying by 40 percent (causing 44,798 deaths in the
United States annually among those aged 17 to 64), they arrived at their
estimate of 2,266 preventable deaths of non-elderly veterans in 2008.
(See table below.)

“Like other uninsured Americans, most uninsured vets are working people
– too poor to afford private coverage but not poor enough to qualify for
Medicaid or means-tested VA care,” said Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, a
professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School who testified before
Congress about uninsured veterans in 2007 (tinyurl.com/yej6rnq) and
carried out the analysis released today. “As a result, veterans go
without the care they need every day in the U.S., and thousands die each
year. It’s a disgrace.”

Dr. David Himmelstein, the co-author of the analysis and associate
professor of medicine at Harvard, commented, “On this Veterans Day we
should not only honor the nearly 500 soldiers who have died this year in
Iraq and Afghanistan, but also the more than 2,200 veterans who were
killed by our broken health insurance system. That’s six preventable
deaths a day.”

He continued: “These unnecessary deaths will continue under the
legislation now before the House and Senate. Those bills would do
virtually nothing for the uninsured until 2013, and leave at least 17
million uninsured over the long run. We need a solution that works for
all veterans – and for all Americans – single-payer national health

While many Americans believe that all veterans can get care from the VA,
even combat veterans may not be able to obtain VA care, Woolhandler
said. As a rule, VA facilities provide care for any veteran who is
disabled by a condition connected to his or her military service and
care for specific medical conditions acquired during military service.

Woolhandler said veterans who pass a means test are eligible for care in
VA facilities, but have lower priority status (Priority 5 or 7,
depending upon income level). Veterans with higher incomes are
classified in the lowest priority group and are not eligible for VA


The table showing the excess deaths of veterans due to lack of insurance
can be found by scrolling down to the bottom of this document:

A December 2007 paper in the American Journal of Public Health
estimating the number of uninsured veterans from 1987 through 2004 can
be found here: tinyurl.com/yk8ous5


Note: If you are an uninsured veteran having difficulty getting health
care and would like to tell your story to the media, write a short note
to Mark Almberg at mark@pnhp.org.

Physicians for a National Health Program (www.pnhp.org) is an
organization of 17,000 doctors who support single-payer national health
insurance, often called an improved Medicare for All. To speak with a
physician/spokesperson in your area, visit www.pnhp.org/stateactions or
call (312) 782-6006.

Physicians for a National Health Program
29 E. Madison St., Suite 602
Chicago IL 60602
(312) 782-6006