Wednesday, July 23, 2014
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Hey, Mitt Romney, Americans DO die for lack of insurance

How did Mitt of Olde morph into Mitt of 2012 when the evidence went the other way?

Hey, Mitt Romney, Americans DO die for lack of insurance

OK, we will.
OK, we will. Getty Images

By Michael Yudell

Riddle me this, Mitt Romney of the year 2012:

How does a man, Mitt of Olde — who in 2007, while explaining the success of Romneycare in Massachusetts, said that it is “critical to insure more people in this country” and who once embraced the notion that health insurance for all was a social and economic good — come to believe, as Mitt did on Wednesday, that emergency rooms can provide the care that uninsured people need?

“We don’t have a setting across this country where if you don’t have insurance, we just say to you, ‘Tough luck, you’re going to die when you have your heart attack,’β€Šβ€Š” Mitt of 2012 surmised. “No, you go to the hospital, you get treated, you get care,” he said, “and it’s paid for, either by charity, the government or by the hospital.” It wasn’t enough for you to stop at that, so you stretched credulity further by incorrectly claiming that in the United States “we don’t have people that become ill, who die in their apartment because they don’t have insurance.”

I hate to tell you this, Mitt of 2012, but we do have people who die every day because they lack health insurance.

A 2009 Harvard Medical School study found, for example, that “the uninsured are more likely to die than are the privately insured.” “Lack of health insurance,” that study found, “is associated with as many as 44,789 deaths per year in the United States, more than those caused by kidney disease.” While, you, as Mitt of 2012, claimed that the government will protect those without insurance, the same study found that “alternative measures of access to medical care for the uninsured, such as community health centers, do not provide the protection of private health insurance.”

Another report, by the healthcare consumer advocacy group FamiliesUSA, found slightly lower numbers — 26,100 adults ages 25 to 64 died prematurely due to a lack of health insurance in 2010. The report, Dying For Coverage: The Deadly Consequences of Being Uninsured, also determined that more than 2,000 people die prematurely every month in the U.S. — 72 every day, three every hour. The report also found that from 2005 to 2010, “the number of people who died prematurely each year due to a lack of health coverage rose from 20,350 to 26,100.”

As if these awful statistics weren’t enough to repudiate Mitt of 2012's claims, being uninsured is also a predictor of poor outcomes even when you do receive care at a government’s or hospital’s expense (which of course is really our expense because it is passed on through higher taxes and insurance premiums). A study from the University of Virginia School of Medicine found that although the uninsured may make it to the hospital, they are more likely than people with private insurance to die from heart bypass operations. Another study, from epidemiologists at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, found that the underinsured were more likely to die from a heart attack than those with private insurance, even when admitted.

So, Mitt of 2012, if you want to believe that the uninsured can do just fine by receiving their care in the emergency room, that's OK; you have a right to your own opinion. But Mitt Romney is and always has been a data guy. You've said so yourself. And the evidence shows that people will continue to die. Those people may not be around to cast blame in the ballot box next time around, but their families will be, and so will you.

Mitt Romney of Olde understood that the problems of the uninsured affect us all and deserve our compassion and action; that's why he created Romneycare. “It doesn’t make sense to have 45 million people without insurance,” Mitt said in 2007. “It’s not good for them because they don’t get good preventative care and disease management. ... But it’s not good for the rest of the citizens either, because if people aren’t insured, they go to the emergency room for their care when they get very sick. That’s expensive. They don’t have any insurance to cover it.”

Mitt of Olde, are you in there somehwere?


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About this blog

What is public health β€” and why does it matter?

Through prevention, education, and intervention, public health practitioners - epidemiologists, health policy experts, municipal workers, environmental health scientists - work to keep us healthy.

It’s not always easy. Michael Yudell, Jonathan Purtle, and other contributors tell you why.

Michael Yudell, PhD, MPH Associate Professor, Drexel University School of Public Health
Jonathan Purtle, DrPH, MPH Research Director, Drexel Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice
Janet Golden, PhD Professor of history, Rutgers University-Camden
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