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October 29, 2009

Uninsured children and a rising death toll

Children without insurance are 60 percent more likely to die than their insured peers, according to a new study from Johns Hopkins researchers that argues that health care reform must protect the nation's most vulnerable.  

The findings, published in the Oct. 30 issue of the Journal of Public Health, offer another sobering statistic: lack of insurance might have contributed nearly 17,000 deaths among children in the United States over the last two decades.

Researchers analyzed more than 23 million hospital records from 37 states between 1988 and 2005, comparing the risk of death in children with and without health coverage. When comparing death rates taking into account underlying disease, uninsured kids had a higher risk of dying regardless of their medical problems, researchers found.

The uninsured rate for children has been rising steadily for two decades causing some lawmakers to fight for expansion of the public insurance to low-income kids through the Children Health Insurance Program, which President Obama signed into law earlier this year. Last year, the rate and the number of uninsured children dipped to their lowest since 1987. Still, advocates are quick to point out, some 7.3 million children lack insurance nationwide.

Confronting the issue is a moral imperative, said researchers.

"Thousands of children die needlessly each year because we lack a health system that provides health insurance. This should not be," said Dr. Peter Provonost, director of Critical Care Medicine at Hopkins, in a statement. "In a country as wealthy as ours, the need to provide health insurance to the millions of children who lack it is a moral, not an economic issue."

The authors cautioned that the study has some big limitations, for instance: researchers examined hospital records after a child died, so they can't say for certain if there a direct cause and effect between lack of coverage and deaths. Still, they say, because of the large number of records studied, they can show a close link between children without coverage and their heightened risk of death.

"Can we say with absolute certainly that 17,000 children would have been saved if they had health insurance? Of course not," said Dr. David Chang. "The point here is that a substantial number of children may be saved by health coverage."

The study comes a month after Harvard researchers found that some 45,000 Americans die each year because of lack of health insurance.

Posted by Kelly Brewington at 7:13 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Pediatrics


We here at the Children's Defense Fund couldn't agree more with Dr. Provonost! These results reinforce the need to shift our governmental priorities—so that the most vulnerable members of our society, our children, have health insurance! To help us tell Congress that changes must build on what works in the system and fix what doesn’t work for children now, join our Champion for Children's Health Stroller Brigade:

So with so many deaths why are the libs waiting til 2013 for obama/pelosi/ reidcare to actually start? Oh yeah,,, 2012 elections....And why do we get only 96% coverage, leaving millions (300 million americans x 96%)without healthcare? You do the math! VOTE 2010!!!

Hey VOTE2010, how about you do the math? If there is 96% coverage, that means that four percent of Americans do not have healthcare (i.e. 12 million).

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About Picture of Health
Meredith CohnMeredith Cohn has been a reporter since 1991, covering everything from politics and airlines to the environment and medicine. A runner since junior high and a particular eater for almost as long, she tries to keep up on health and fitness trends. Her aim is to bring you the latest news and information from the local and national medical and wellness communities.

Andrea K. WalkerAndrea K. Walker knows it’s weird to some people, but she has a fascination with fitness, diseases, medicine and other health-related topics. She subscribes to a variety of health and fitness magazines and becomes easily engrossed in the latest research in health and science. An exercise fanatic, she’s probably tried just about every fitness activity there is. Her favorites are running, yoga and kickboxing. So it is probably fitting that she has been assigned to cover the business of healthcare and to become a regular contributor to this blog. Andrea has been at The Sun for nearly 10 years, covering manufacturing, retail , airlines and small and minority business. She looks forward to telling readers about the latest health news.

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