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Public Statements

Dying To Get Health Care

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Every day one person dies in Colorado because they are uninsured, according to a report released yesterday by a Washington, D.C.-based consumer health care advocacy group.

Families USA said approximately 360 Coloradans died in 2006 because they didn't have health insurance. The national report — originally conducted by the Institute of Medicine in 2002 and recently analyzed by Families USA — states that over the course of six years, nearly 2,100 adults between the ages of 25 and 64 died because they did not have health insurance.

"Our report highlights how our inadequate system of health coverage condemns a great number of Coloradans to an early death, simply because they don't have the same access to health care as their insured neighbors," said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA. "The conclusions are sadly clear — a lack of health coverage is a matter of life and death for many Coloradans."

Uninsured adults are 25 percent more likely to die prematurely than adults with private health insurance, according to the Institute of Medicine's report. Also, uninsured adults between the ages of 55 an 64 are more likely to die prematurely compared to their younger counterparts, said Pollack, who cited a similar academic study that was recently conducted.

No health insurance kills

Lack of health insurance is the third leading cause of death for adults between the ages of 55 and 64, followed by heart disease and cancer.

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver, said the Families USA report echoes concerns she has been raising for several years as the vice chair of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, which oversees federal health care policy.

"Access to quality health care should be a basic right for everyone," she said. "Without (preventative health care) our emergency rooms would be overflowing with patients seeking basic health care, thereby resulting in increased costs for our already strained health care system."

Health care mandates costly?

Opponents, however, say health care mandates are a costly, unnecessary government intrusion, even on the state level. Earlier this month, Michael Tanner, with the conservative Cato Institute, said mandates proposed by the state's Blue Ribbon Commission for Health Care Reform will lead to spikes in premiums. He rejected the commission's recommendation to require Coloradans to have minimum insurance coverage.

At the time, Tanner called health care mandates a "slippery slope to a government run health care system."

But the Families USA and Institute of Medicine report's indicate that people without health insurance often forgo checkups, screenings and other preventative care that could save lives.

"As a result, uninsured adults are more likely to be diagnosed with a disease — such as cancer — in an advanced stage, which greatly reduces their chance of survival," said Pollack.

Salazar to fight for hospitals

U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar said yesterday that he would fight for Colorado hospitals that stand to lose $800 million in light of pending Medicaid rule changes that he said would result in the funding shortfall.

The rule changes apply to hospitals serving a "disproportionate share of vulnerable patients," said the Democrat from Colorado.

The targeted 25 Colorado hospitals provide over 746,000 low-income Coloradans with affordable health care coverage, said Salazar.

The Medicaid reimbursement rule changes would also eliminate funding for graduate medical education programs, he said.

Moratorium

Salazar said he will fight the proposed rule changes by first attempting to extend the current Congressionally-imposed moratorium that prevents the rules from being implemented. The moratorium expires on May 25.

Meanwhile, the Washington, D.C.-based Urban Institute, a national social policy research group, said 22,000 adults died in 2006 due to a lack of health insurance.

"This report illustrates the importance of investing in preventative health care," said DeGette. "Not only is it our moral obligation to provide care, but preventative care is more cost-effective."


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