45,000 Americans Die From Lack of Insurance
September 18, 2009 - 3:48pm ET
Kaytee Riek’s mother was 51 years old when she died. She wasn’t hit by a car, she didn’t have cancer. She had a treatable heart condition that was never diagnosed. Sue Riek died because she didn’t have access to medical care.
She didn’t qualify for Medicaid, but couldn’t afford to cover herself. Her premiums would have been around $5,000 a month. One death that could have been avoided by access to affordable insurance. It would be nice to think that as a society we would have done everything we could to make sure Sue Riek didn’t die, but in reality, we are more impressed with big numbers than we are with individual stories.
So what number would be enough for us to finally decide that enough was enough? That we finally needed to get over the bickering and solve this problem?
How about 45,000?
That’s the number of people who die every year due to lack of insurance. That’s more than the entire population of some towns, including the one I went to college in. For years, people in the health care industry had been using 18,000, but a recent study by Harvard University almost triples that number.
The effort to expand affordable health care has become a shouting match. Lies, distortions, misinformation, and the gratuitous throwing around of money have dominated what should always have been rational discourse. Every day we spend fighting and promoting our own self-interests, another 120 people die from lack of insurance.
We have failed Americans such as Sue Riek and we have failed her family by not doing everything we can to ensure that nobody dies from treatable conditions because they can’t afford health insurance, and are scared of the consequences of maintaining their health without it. Activists and advocates are always telling us it's time to push health care reform. I won't say it's time to contact your congressman. I won't say it's time to take action. It's long past time. The clock is ticking.
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