Lack of health insurance kills 45,000 Americans annually: Report

Here's a statistic bound to stiffen the resolve of health care reformers: The number of yearly U.S. deaths linked to lack of health insurance is now thought to be nearly 45,000 -- about 2.5 times more than previous estimates seven years ago. That means one person dies every 12 minutes. Why the jump? The study in the American Journal of Public Health points to an increase in the number of uninsured -- at least 46 million today -- and a fraying medical safety net.

The Harvard University-based researchers say uninsured, working-age Americans have a 40 percent higher risk of death than their privately insured counterparts. In 1993, that number was just 25 percent. "The uninsured have a higher risk of death when compared to the privately insured, even after taking into account socioeconomics, health behaviors and baseline health," says lead author Andrew Wilper, who worked at Harvard Medical School when the study was done. "We doctors have many new ways to prevent deaths from hypertension, diabetes and heart disease -- but only if patients can get into our offices and afford their medications."