Report: 5,000 Illinois Deaths caused by lack of health insurance
(Crain’s) — Nearly 5,000 Illinois residents died between 2005 and 2010 because they didn’t have insurance, according to a new report issued just days before the U.S. Supreme Court’s expected ruling on the federal overhaul of health care.
Illinois ranked sixth among all states in the number of uninsured people between ages 25 and 64 who died prematurely, according to the report issued on Wednesday by Families USA. With nearly 12.8 million people, Illinois is the fifth-largest state in the U.S., based on the 2010 U.S. Census.
During the five-year period, 134,120 people in the U.S. died because they lacked insurance of any kind, including Medicaid, the state-federal health care program for the poor, according to the Washington-based advocacy group.
The high court ruled on Thursday on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, which includes a dramatic expansion of Medicaid and the mandate requiring some people to buy private insurance.
Because the court does not strike down the law, about 1.2 million additional people in the Chicago area would have some form of coverage — either private insurance or Medicaid — by 2014, according to one estimate.
The Families USA report attempts to dramatize the consequence of not being insured. To estimate the number of deaths, Families USA used population data from the U.S. Census Bureau and mortality rates published by the National Center of Health Statistics.
California, the most populous state, also had the most uninsured deaths, with 16,285 between 2005 and 2010, the report says. Tiny Vermont had the fewest, with just 154 deaths, according to the report.
Generally, the uninsured deaths track population, with the states with the most people also having the most uninsured deaths. But there were some exceptions.
Louisiana, for example, ranked 13th in uninsured deaths, with 3,346, but is the 25th-largest state, with 4.5 million people. Minnesota ranked 33rd, with 846 deaths, but is the 21st-largest state, with 5.3 million people.
The number of people without health insurance has climbed as unemployment has risen in the recent recession, said attorney John Bouman, president of Chicago-based Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law.
In May, Illinois took away Medicaid benefits from about 26,400 adults as part of a broad cost-savings measure designed to save the ailing health care system from collapse. The move is designed to save nearly $50 million a year, according to a summary of Medicaid cuts by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services.
In the long run, Mr. Bouman said, that only makes matters worse.
“By taking away their coverage, you make them more expensive, and when nobody pays the hospital bills, that gets passed on to the rest of us,” he said.