Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Happy Veterans Day

Study: 2,200 Vets Died Last Year Because They Lacked Health Insurance

By Alex Seitz-Wald via ThinkProgress

On the eve of Veterans Day, a team of researchers from Harvard Medical School has released a study finding that an estimated 2,266 veterans under the age of 65 died last year because they did not have health insurance. That “translates to six preventable deaths per day” and more than twice the number killed in Afghanistan since the war began in 2001.

Being uninsured raises a person’s odds of dying prematurely by 40 percent. The researchers found that 1.46 million veterans between the ages of 18 and 64 lacked insurance in 2008. While most veterans are eligible to receive excellent care from the Veterans Administration, those who were not injured in combat and whose income is above a certain threshold are often ineligible. Others are assigned low priorities, providing them with less consistent and more expensive access to care:

“Like other uninsured Americans, most uninsured vets are working people – too poor to afford private coverage but not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid or means-tested VA care,” said Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, a professor at Harvard Medical School. [...]

Dr. David Himmelstein, the co-author of the analysis and associate professor of medicine at Harvard, commented, “On this Veterans Day we should not only honor the nearly 500 soldiers who have died this year in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also the more than 2,200 veterans who were killed by our broken health insurance system. That’s six preventable deaths a day.”

Unfortunately, health insurance is just one of many serious problems vets face. Up to one-in-five veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, while male vets face suicide rates double the national average. And, as the VA under President Obama recognized, veterans still account for up to a quarter of all homeless.

The fact that even veterans cannot receive adequate health care demonstrates that the current system is broken and in need of dramatic overhaul. A robust public option will guarantee that vets and all working-class Americans will be able to afford quality health insurance. Still, the study’s authors warn that the health care legislation “would do virtually nothing for the uninsured until 2013” and would “leave at least 17 million uninsured over the long run when reform kicks in,” leaving many veterans without care.

Update: Politico reports, "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) 'illogical' for holding up a veterans care bill Tuesday, criticizing the Oklahoma Republican for supporting war funding while blocking health care funding for veterans."


  1. Ah yes....war funding. The war economy is one big reason our economy is tanking...a healthy economy can not be sustained on this type of spending. It is sinister the way we treat our veterans in this country and kill our own heroes by denying them adequate health insurance and health care. Our pets get better care at the "VET'S" office than our own heroic VETerans! A sad commentary on the values of this country.

  2. Govt. spending is really not the problem here, the lack of a wage-based economy is the problem. In order for the "consumer driven economy" to thrive, consumers need to make a living wage and have some leftover money to spend so the economy can grow. As long as employers have incentives to offshore manufacturing jobs, our "CONSUMER DRIVEN ECONOMY" will continue to shrink. Not everyone can go to college. WAGE-BASED ECONOMY, not credit based economy. It is a new paradigm whose time has come. people Make enough money so that they can afford to live confortably. What a concept. Instead of CEO's making 450 times what the workers make, maybe he makes only 100 times what the workers make.. isn't that enough for not even lifting a finger? Then the workers who actually produce the finished product can make a good living and everyone is happy. Kapish?

  3. Oh... AND the unecessary war spending. You are so correct. A total waste of our young soldiers' lives and our country's limited resources with no hope of resolution. Anyone who watched the Russians FAIL in Afghanistan knows this to be true. Out Now.