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An American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine report indicates that people without health insurance have a higher risk of morbidity and early death. The study is an attempt to document what has long been assumed: Lack of insurance is bad for one's health.

Researchers found that the uninsured are 2.4 times more likely than insured people to be hospitalized for hypertension, and 2.8 times more likely to be admitted for diabetes. Those without coverage have poorer outcomes after hospitalization, and are 3 times more likely to die in the hospital.

The Center for Studying Health System Change, a Washington-based think tank, says a fifth of the uninsured are offered insurance by employers, but decline it. Those in poor or fair health are less likely to accept employer-based coverage than workers in good health — a surprise, the group says, in that people in poorer health are more likely to benefit from it. Cost, it concludes, is the main reason why; benefit contributions take a bigger bite out of the pay of low-income workers, who tend to be in poorer health.

SOURCES: ROBERT WOOD JOHNSON FOUNDATION 1997 EMPLOYER HEALTH INSURANCE SURVEY; CENTER FOR STUDYING HEALTH SYSTEM CHANGE COMMUNITY TRACKING STUDY

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