How many people die from lack of insurance? That's the question that The Atlantic's Megan McArdle tackled in her column this month. It's a more difficult question to answer than you might think: Though the left is fond of claiming that hundreds of thousands of people will be left to die like dogs on the street if we don't grant them health care coverage, the truth of the matter is still under debate.Writes McArdle:
Republicans rarely plumbed the connection between insurance and mortality, presumably because they would look foolish and heartless if they expressed any doubt about health insurance’s benefits. It was politically safer to harp on the potential problems of government interventions—or, in extremis, to point out that more than half the uninsured were either affluent, lacking citizenship, or already eligible for government programs in which they hadn’t bothered to enroll. ... Even a rough approximation of how many people die because of lack of health insurance is hard to reach. Quite possibly, lack of health insurance has no more impact on your health than lack of flood insurance.
McArdle goes on to point out that the studies floating around on the subject throw out radically different numbers, ranging from 45,000 dead per year to none. And that zero dead per year figure comes from a study commissioned by a member of the Clinton White House:
The possibility that no one risks death by going without health insurance may be startling, but some research supports it. Richard Kronick of the University of California at San Diego’s Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, an adviser to the Clinton administration, recently published the results of what may be the largest and most comprehensive analysis yet done of the effect of insurance on mortality. He used a sample of more than 600,000, and controlled not only for the standard factors, but for how long the subjects went without insurance, whether their disease was particularly amenable to early intervention, and even whether they lived in a mobile home. In test after test, he found no significantly elevated risk of death among the uninsured.
You should, as they say, read the whole thing.