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 [Tuesday], 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.
Here’s the Catch-22 faced by uninsured veterans:
“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 at Harvard Medical School who testified before Congress about uninsured veterans in 2007 and carried out the analysis released today [Tuesday]. “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.”
Tell Congress to support our troops and pass comprehensive health insurance reform.