Each day in Colorado one person dies unnecessarily because he or she doesn't have health insurance, a group advocating universal coverage said Tuesday.
The nonprofit Families USA used a 30-year study of deaths and insurance status to reach the conclusion that 360 Coloradans die prematurely every year because they didn't have health insurance.
The assumption, based on death statistics, is that a person without coverage has a 25 percent greater chance of dying prematurely.
So when it comes to health care reform, it's safe to assume that it would be better to do almost anything than nothing at all - right? Not so fast.
Unfortunately, there are several problems with this report. Besides the assumption stated in the article, the report also uncritically restates the figures of "47 million uninsured," without explaining the fact that many of those are only temporarily uninsured, are illegal aliens, or are eligible for government insurance programs and don't apply.
So even presuming their statistic is accurate, the question remains how many people die from their own neglect as opposed to government neglect. Nor can an inference be made from the Families USA statistic that simply mandating universal health insurance coverage for all would lower the death rate accordingly - if at all. Any such reform would have an adverse effect on the cost and quality of health care. This survey simply didn't compare the estimated death rate effects of the status quo versus any sort of proposed reform, including Families USA's preferred pet of universal health insurance coverage.
Finally, the statistic itself seems to be derived from something less than a concrete scientific method, as pointed out by my Independence Institute colleague in the Rocky:
Linda Gorman, health policy analyst for the free-market think tank the Independence Institute, has been a vocal critic of reports that purport to enumerate the lives lost to lack of insurance coverage, saying it is simply guesswork.
Gorman, who served on Colorado's Blue Ribbon Commission on Health Care Reform, says government-sponsored health care will be inefficient and raise taxes so much that care will have to be rationed.
That could lead to, say, no more hip replacements or knee replacements after a certain age, and to long lines to wait for treatment, she has said.
The touted report needs to be dissected carefully and critically, but you can expect Colorado's typical Lefty suspects to tout the statistic both as the gospel and as airtight proof for universal health insurance - despite their suspect track record. More work needs to be done examining these claims and comparing them to the effects of various proposed reforms, and preferably not done alone by a group committed to advocacy for more government in health care.