Study: 45,000 Uninsured Die a Year

A year-and-a-half ago, Daniel Durate started dropping a lot of weight, going from 290 to 240 pounds.

Having quit his full-time job at a dairy to freelance in the catering business -- gambling he wouldn't need the insurance -- Durate didn't go to the doctor until he could no longer eat. The diagnosis: Stage 4 stomach cancer. Medicaid paid for his surgery last April.

"Would you have been in a different place if you had health insurance?" asked CBS News correspondent Jim Axelrod.

"Totally," Durate said. "I would have been able to go to a doctor like maybe last year."

"We found that 45,000 Americans are dying annually, due to lack of health insurance," said Dr. Steffie Woolhandler.

Woolhandler was part of a team that tracked more than 9,000 people for up to 13 years, comparing the health of those with insurance to those without. After factoring in education and income, smoking, drinking and obesity, researchers found that the uninsured had about a 40 percent higher risk of death, linking 45,000 American deaths a year to lack of insurance. In 1993 it was 25 percent.

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"We have lots of good treatments for high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol that can now prevent complications, that can now lengthen our patients' lives, but we can't do anything for our patients if they can't afford to come to our offices," Woolhandler said.

John Goodman of the National Center for Policy Analysis said the study results are exaggerated. Researchers don't know how the uninsured died or if they were uninsured the entire time they were being tracked. But even this critic agrees with the basic premise.

"I think you can't trust the results," Goodman said. "Having said that, we ought to do something for the uninsured."

It's not getting easier even for those who do have insurance. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average cost of a family health insurance policy is now more than $13,000, having more than doubled this decade.

  • Jim Axelrod
    Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the chief investigative correspondent and senior national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for "CBS This Morning," the "CBS Evening News," "CBS Sunday Morning," and other CBS News broadcasts.