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Short and painful retirement

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Posted: 1 pm ET

We were at the baseball game in Detroit last night -- the Tigers lost. The stadium is downtown, and even though the city has been working hard to gentrify what it calls the "Entertainment District," you still see lots of impoverished street people. Many of them are old and looking at a retirement that is likely to be short -- one that makes the retirement planning concerns the rest of us worry about seem inconsequential.

According to a study released on Monday by Wayne State University and the Detroit Medical Center, the death rate for Detroit residents ages 60 to 74 is 60 percent higher than the state average. The reasons for this shocking difference include a high rate of chronic illness and poor access to health care, according to the study.

"Low-income seniors in Detroit are more likely to enter the health care system with a more advanced stage of disease, resulting in more complications, a higher level of service needs, avoidable higher costs, and a higher death rate than exists for seniors in the rest of the state of Michigan and those elsewhere who can seek care regularly," said Dr. Herbert C. Smitherman, Jr., assistant dean at Wayne State University and the study's principal investigator.

Researchers found the mortality rate in Detroit is similar to other selected urban and medically underserved areas nationwide. Smitherman said adults as young as 50 who live in areas where they don't have access to adequate health care suffer more chronic illnesses with heart disease, cancer, stroke,  pneumonia, diabetes, kidney disease and blood poisoning being the most common.

Smitherman hopes the U.S. Supreme Court's approval of the Affordable Care Act last week can help to close the mortality and chronic illness gap by making health care more affordable. "The decision by the high court approving the act will make access to affordable health care finally possible for many currently without health insurance and will result in vastly improved health outcomes and reduced health disparities in our community and our country," he said.

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