National Academy Of Sciences: Lack Of Access To Health Insurance Has Lowered Life Expectancy

David Leonhardt points to this fascinating new report from the National Academy of Sciences which finds that smoking, obesity rates and lack of equitable access to health insurance coverage are literally killing Americans:

Over the last 25 years, life expectancy at age 50 in the U.S. has been rising, but at a slower pace than in many other high-income countries, such as Japan and Australia. This difference is particularly notable given that the U.S. spends more on health care than any other nation….

Three to five decades ago, smoking was much more widespread in the U.S. than in Europe or Japan, and the health consequences are still playing out in today’s mortality rates, the report says. Smoking appears to be responsible for a good deal of the differences in life expectancy, especially for women….

Obesity’s contribution to lagging life expectancies in the U.S. also appears to be significant, the report says. While there is still uncertainty in the literature about the magnitude of the relationship between obesity and mortality, it may account for a fifth to a third of the shortfall in longevity in the U.S. compared to other nations, the report says….

Lack of universal access to health care in the U.S. also has increased mortality and reduced life expectancy, the report says, though this is a less significant factor for those over age 65 because of Medicare access….

Since repealing health reform is the number one agenda item for Republicans in Congress — just today, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that he would pressure Democrats to hold a repeal vote in the Senate — I don’t see why Democrats don’t argue that taking away insurance from 32 million Americans will lower U.S. life expectancy. After all, actions have consequences and if Republicans want to push through repeal, then they should be held accountable for their vote. (Notably, they’ve also been dismissive of Obama’s anti-obesity campaign.)

This kind of language generally makes people feel very uncomfortable (especially after the Tuscon tragedy) and some will find equivalency between the GOP’s lines about “job killing” and “death panels” and the approach I’m suggesting. But the difference is that — as this report suggests — the argument that uninsurance kills people is actually true.