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This One Thing Increases Your Chances of Dying From COVID, Says Study

According to new research, a good health insurance policy goes a long way.
Smiling young doctor giving health card to a patient

If you become infected with coronavirus, there are a variety of factors that can impact your chances of developing serious illness and possibly death. Researchers have found that everything from gender, age, blood type and skin color to any pre-existing health conditions can majorly impact not only how your body responds to the virus, but your likelihood to get the help you need. 

Now, a new study has also found that individuals who don't have a certain type of card in their wallet—for health insurance—are also at a significantly higher risk of dying from the highly infectious virus. According to a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, the uninsured or underinsured—which accounts for around 18 million Americans—are at an increased risk of developing severe coronavirus

"Double Jeopardy" for COVID-19

"Our study shows that minority communities face double jeopardy from COVID-19: on the one hand, they are at higher risk of severe complications from coronavirus, and on the other hand, they are more likely to be uninsured and underinsured, and hence to avoid care or to face potentially ruinous medical bills," Dr. Adam Gaffney, the study's lead author who is a pulmonary and critical care physician at the Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard Medical School, told Newsweek. "Our dysfunctional health care financing is one important contributing factor behind pernicious racial health inequities in American society."

Researchers from Harvard Medical School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and City University of New York at Hunter College in New York City analyzed 2018 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They identified the "COVID-19-increased risk" population based on CDC guidance—individuals 65 and older, and non-elderly adults with COPD, asthma, heart disease, severe obesity (BMI ≥ 40), kidney disease, and diabetes. A whopping 18.2 million people who fell into this category were either uninsured or underinsured. 

They also pointed to an Apr 23 analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) estimating that 5.1 million Americans at high risk for severe coronavirus disease lacked insurance.

A Double Disadvantage for Many 

Researchers also highlighted that "traditionally disadvantaged groups—racial minorities, low-income persons, and rural residents" are more likely to suffer from pre-existing conditions that make them more susceptible for severe infection. Additionally, they are less likely to have sufficient insurance. Both factors put them at an even greater disadvantage.

For example, Native Americans are 90% more likely than whites to be at high risk for serious COVID-19 outcomes and 53% less likely to have proper health insurance.

"To control this pandemic on an ongoing basis, people have to be unafraid to obtain care when they need it, whether for testing or treatment. But a Gallup poll in May found that 14 percent of Americans would avoid health care because of costs even if they had symptoms consistent with COVID. If people stay home with symptoms because they're afraid of a giant bill, they put their own health at risk," Gaffney told Newsweek

"This also could impede efforts to reduce viral spread. This pandemic is laying bare the weaknesses, the gaps, and the inequities of the U.S. health care system," he said. To protect yourself and others, continue to wash your hands frequently, practice social distancing, wear a face covering and monitor your health. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these Things You Should Never Do During the Coronavirus Pandemic.

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