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Report: Lack of Insurance Can Be Fatal

March 24, 2008

Richmond, VA – Attention, Virginia's poor people: Not having health insurance can kill you!

A new report from Families USA suggests that as many as 10 working-age Virginians die each week because of a lack of health insurance, most from diseases that could have been treated easily if caught early.

Jill Hanken with the Virginia Poverty Law Center says even basic health care coverage is out of reach for many because the income threshold for Medicaid is lower in Virginia than in 44 other states.

"Believe it or not, there are people who live at very low income levels, but unless they are living on less than $6000 a year for a family of four, the parents are ineligible for Medicaid in Virginia."

Parents must earn less than 30 percent of the Federal poverty rate to qualify for Medicaid in Virginia. Hanken says the governor's health reform commission recommended last fall that the state raise the threshold to 65 percent immediately, and 100 percent as soon as possible. The report authors say a lack of insurance is the third leading cause of death for people ages 55-64, trailing only heart disease and cancer.

Hanken says it's cheaper to catch and treat diseases like cancer in an early stage, something that would be possible if more people could afford routine health screenings.

"It's cost-efficient to provide preventive heath care. You can treat conditions more cheaply at the front end than at the back end. The state would benefit greatly by investing in these programs."

The full report is available at

John Robinson/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - VA