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Nov-15-2009 18:50TweetFollow @OregonNews
Lack of Healthcare Kills Veterans at Much Higher Rate than CombatTim King Salem-News.com
Harvard study shows that for every American killed in Afghanistan in 2008, 14 military veterans died because they lacked healthcare coverage.
(SALEM, Ore.) - A report from Agence France Presse indicates that the number of American veterans who died in 2008 because they didn't have healthcare, is 14 times higher than the military death toll in Afghanistan, for the entire year.
Two Harvard medical researchers analyzed data, comparing U.S. combat-related deaths in Afghanistan, with the number of veterans who died because they lacked the ability to seek out adequate healthcare and access medical services. All of the veterans surveyed were under the age of 65.
The study was released four days ago, designed to coincide with the Veterans Day holiday, when those who died fighting overseas are honored and recognized. It clearly indicates that in spite of care from the Veterans Administration, many American veterans remain without coverage.
The AFP report states that the analysis utilized census data to determine how many U.S. veterans lack both private health coverage and VA care.
Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, David Himmelstein, is also the co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program, which co-authored the study.
He said the veterans represent a group of about 1.5 million people. Along with co-author Stephanie Woolhandler, who is also a Harvard medical professor, Himmelstein compared that figure with an additional study that examined the mortality rate that accompanies a lack of health insurance.
He told AFP, "The uninsured have about a 40 percent higher risk of dying each year than otherwise comparable insured individuals."
"Putting that all together you get an estimate of almost 2,300 -- 2,266 veterans who die each year from lack of health insurance."
He cites how some veterans in the U.S. have access to medical care through the VA, but that coverage, under the current system, breaks veterans down into 8 "priority groups" and this can lead to delays in treatment.
"The priority eight group, the lowest priority, are veterans above the very poor group who have no other reason to be eligible and that group is essentially shut out of the VA," Himmelstein said.
It is not clear how the study will affect the US Senate's decision on health care reform legislation.
In the end, Himmelstein is clear that even current congressional proposals would still leave veterans out in the cold in terms of healthcare coverage. He says in the AFP article that he favors a national health care program similar to those in Britain and Canada.
Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor.
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