California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Study Links Premature Deaths to Lack of Health Insurance in Calif.

California has the highest number of residents who die prematurely each year because they lack health insurance, according to a national study released by Families USA, New America Media reports.

Nearly 7 million Californians do not have health insurance (New America Media, 6/20).

The report used the same research methods as a 2002 study from the Institute of Medicine that linked a lack of health insurance coverage to premature deaths (O'Neill, "KPCC News," KPCC, 6/20).

California Findings

According to the study, about 3,164 California residents between the ages of 25 and 64 died prematurely in 2010 because they lacked health insurance. The figure translates to about 61 residents per week.

Californians are less likely than residents of other states to have health insurance, receive employer-based health insurance and be able to afford coverage, according to New America Media. California residents also are at a greater risk of being denied coverage for preexisting conditions than individuals living in other states.

In addition, the study found that a large percentage of the Hispanic population in California is uninsured, which is similar to findings in other states.

Ron Pollack -- executive director of Families USA -- said that many Hispanic residents work low-wage jobs that make it difficult for them to obtain health insurance.

National Findings

The study found that the number of U.S. residents who died prematurely because they did not have health insurance increased between 2005 and 2010, from 20,350 to 26,100.

According to the study, 134,120 U.S. residents died prematurely from a lack of health coverage during the five-year period.

Experts Discuss Effect of Federal Health Law

Pollack said, "[F]or the millions of Americans without health coverage, only the [federal health reform law] offers the promise of access to affordable coverage and to a longer and healthier life" (New America Media, 6/20).

However, John Graham -- director of health care studies at the San Francisco-based Pacific Research Institute -- said that the reform law "has suppressed the economy." He said the law "is actually the cause of unemployment, which leads to uninsurance" ("KPCC News, "KPCC, 6/20).

Potential Implications of Supreme Court Decision

The U.S. Supreme Court soon will rule on the constitutionality of the reform law.

It will decide whether the federal government can require residents to purchase insurance and whether federal lawmakers have the power to pressure states to expand insurance coverage through Medicaid.

The court is expected to release its decision by the end of June (California Healthline, 6/20).

Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access, said California is "aggressively implementing" the law's provisions and has a "great stake" in the outcome of the Supreme Court decision.

He said that about 50,000 Californians will lose health care coverage if the court strikes down the law, while nearly 90% of state residents could have coverage if the Supreme Court upholds the law (New America Media, 6/20).

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