The health insurance debate

Three new studies out today on health care insurance coverage.

An American Cancer Society study finds cancer patients without health insurance are twice as likely to die within five years as cancer patients with health insurance. There is a significant caveat, however.

The research by scientists with the American Cancer Society offers important context for the national discussion about health care reform, experts say – even though the uninsured are believed to account for just a fraction of U.S. cancer deaths. An Associated Press analysis suggests it is around 4 percent.

But the health care issue is more than an insured vs. non-insured debate, a study from the group Families USA suggests. The group lobbies for health care coverage. Yesterday the group released a study saying one out of four families in Minnesota with insurance coverage, will still pay 10 percent of their income on health care in 2008. The number is about the same in Wisconsin and is slightly higher in Iowa.

The Bemidji Pioneer’s editorial (registration required) this morning says the report underscores the need to focus on the insured as well as the uninsured.

As a result, affordable quality health care is no longer a problem for the uninsured, but now also is a problem for those who have insurance. As health costs take up more and more of a family’s budget, hard decisions will be made that could put the family’s health in jeopardy. Policy makers, who seek reform to contain health care costs, need also to keep current protections in place for people now insured and that adequate coverage to do so is provided.

Getting significantly less attention this week was a study from Brandeis University on the impact of health insurance on farmers. Minnesota, Iowa, North and South Dakota were included in the study.

While only 8 percent of American households buy health insurance through this market, the study found that 36 percent of farm and ranch families do. Those 36 percent of families are paying an average of $4,359 more than their counterparts who get insurance through an employer, the survey found.

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