More than 2,200 veterans under the age of 65 died last year due to lack of health insurance, according to a study out of Harvard Medical School released today. This number - 2,266 in one year - is more than 14 times the number of US troops who died in Afghanistan in 2008.
The researchers also found that, in 2008, 1,461,615 veterans between the ages of 18 and 64 lacked insurance.
Steffie Woolhandler, one of the study's authors, pointed out that most uninsured veterans fall into a common coverage gap: they aren't poor enough to qualify for Medicaid or special VA benefits, but earn too little to pay for health care on their own.
"Uninsured veterans have the same problems getting the care they need as do other unsinsured Americans," Woolhandler said in testimony before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. "Moreover, many uninsured veterans have serious illnesses requiring extensive care."
Many veterans cannot receive care from the VA, even if they've been through combat, according to Woolhandler. Generally, VA facilities only treat medical problems or disabilities specifically acquired during military service.
The Harvard researchers stressed that the health care bill that recently passed the House would do little to address veterans' health care woes, and that the "solution that works for all veterans" would be a single-payer health insurance plan.