Ten Pennsylvanians Die Each Day from Government Health Insurance

Member Group : Commonwealth Foundation

NEWS RELEASE from the Commonwealth Foundation

Ten Pennsylvanians Die Each Day from Government Health Insurance
Uninsured citizens fare better than government insured

HARRISBURG, PA — The Commonwealth Foundation today illustrated the absurdity of Gov. Ed Rendell’s politically motivated claim that "two Pennsylvanians die each day from the lack of health insurance."

"Using Gov. Rendell’s logic, it is equally accurate—and absurd—to state that at least six Pennsylvanians die each day because they are on government health insurance, and four more die because of government regulation and intervention in health care," said Matthew J. Brouillette, president and CEO of the Commonwealth Foundation.

The basis of Rendell’s claim is a Families USA "report" citing data that, nationally, 22,000 adults—including 710 in Pennsylvania—die annually because they lack health insurance. "Unfortunately, Gov. Rendell’s cure—more government health care—is worse than the disease," said Brouillette.

While Gov. Rendell and other proponents advocate for more taxpayer spending on health care, they ignore the effects of government health coverage. "Studies," such as those cited, use statistics showing lower survival rates following diagnoses among the uninsured than those with private insurance. What they ignore, however, is that statistics also show lower survival rates among those with government insurance—Medicaid and Medicare participants. In fact, both Medicaid and Medicare have lower survival rates than do the uninsured.

1-Year Crude Survival Rates, by Cancer Type
Prostate (Men) Breast (Women) Lung Colorectal

Private Insurance 98 97.5 48.9 85.9
Medicare 89.4 89.7 33.8 70.3
Medicare + Supplement 92.4 92.1 36.1 72.4
Medicaid 82.6 92.6 41.5 72.1
Uninsured 89.3 94.5 38.2 83.1

Source: Arch Intern Med — Cancer Survival in Kentucky and Health Insurance Coverage, October 13, 2003, McDavid et al. 163 (18): 2135. Table 4.

As David Gratzer writes in The Cure: "Their paper… found even lower survival rates for those with Medicaid. In other words, if lack of insurance can be argued to have a negative effect on health, Medicaid coverage is worse. Taking their conclusion a step further, it would seem that the nation’s poor would do better if we scrapped Medicaid."

More statistics on the negative impact of government control of health care include:
• A 2004 Cato Institute report which found that health care regulations kill an estimated 22,000 Americans every year, or as many deaths supposedly caused by a lack of health insurance.
• The Institute of Medicine estimates 18,000 Americans die due to medical errors every year. Cato Scholar Michael Cannon notes that one explanation is that that the federal government actually rewards medical errors.
• In Canada, as well as in other countries with "universal coverage," the quality of care lags behind the United States. In fact, Canada’s Supreme Court ruled that, since people die while on waiting lists, the Canadian system—creating a monopoly of government health care—violates the rights to life, liberty and security of persons.
"Naturally, neither the lack of health insurance nor the presence of government health insurance kills people. That is, no deaths are caused because individuals lack insurance," noted Brouillette. "But the data demonstrate that government health insurance provides a lower quality of care than private insurance.
"Putting more individuals on government-run health insurance would diminish, not exceed, the quality of health care in Pennsylvania. Instead, policies should be adopted to increase the affordability of private insurance." Solutions include:
• Give individuals the same tax benefits for purchasing health insurance as businesses.
• Allow consumers to buy insurance across state lines, giving families the ability to shop for the lowest cost and best insurance plan for their needs.
• Allow individuals to choose less expensive insurance by opting out of some, or all, of government-imposed coverage mandates.
• Enable list billing, allowing employers to receive a bill for and contribute to employees’ insurance plans or HSAs, without requiring a company-provided plan.
• Enact Medicaid reform that would give recipients a risk-adjusted credit to purchase private health coverage, and allow these to be combined with individual or employer payments for coverage.
• Reduce the cost of care and coverage through tort reform.
• Create a market-driven high risk pool for individuals with serious medical liabilities.
# # #
For more on health care reform, see the Commonwealth Foundation’s PolicyPoints, Health Care Reform, and report, Medicaid Reform, both available at www.CommonwealthFoundation.org.

The Commonwealth Foundation (www.CommonwealthFoundation.org) is an independent, non-profit public policy research and educational institute based in Harrisburg, PA.

– 30 –

CONTACT: Matthew J. Brouillette or Joe Sterns at 717.671.1901

Commonwealth Foundation | 225 State Street, Suite 302 | Harrisburg | PA | 17101