Commonwealth Study Finds 25% Without Coverage in Past Year
Nearly one in four Americans went without health insurance at some point in the last year, affecting their ability to pay bills or making them more likely to skip needed care, a Commonwealth Fund study released yesterday indicates, the AP/Baltimore Sun reports (AP/Baltimore Sun, 12/13). The 2001 Survey of Health Insurance consists of interviews with 2,829 adults ages 19 to 64 and 628 adults ages 65 and older via telephone between April 27 and July 29, 2001 (Duchon et al., "Security Matters: How Instability in Health Insurance Puts U.S. Workers at Risk," 12/12). The study found that 24% of working-age Americans, about 38.4 million people, were without health insurance at some point in the last 12 months. Fifty percent of those who were uninsured at some point in the last year reported having problems paying a bill, and 27% of the "short-term uninsured adults" said they "changed their way of life" to pay for medical care. In addition, 52% of those uninsured at some point during the year experienced one of four problems accessing care: not seeing a doctor when ill, not filling a prescription, passing over recommended medical care or avoiding visiting a specialist when needed. Fifty-five percent of respondents who were uninsured at the time of the survey said they experienced at least one of those four problems. By contrast, only 21% of respondents who had health insurance for the entire year said they experienced any of the problems. Researchers noted that the survey was conducted prior to the current economic downturn, and that since then "hundreds of thousands of Americans have lost jobs and, frequently, health insurance benefits" (AP/Baltimore Sun, 12/13). Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis said, "A lapse in insurance coverage ... is strongly linked to lack of access to medical care, problems paying bills, and even paying for basic living costs such as food or rent. As we enter a period of higher unemployment we must ensure that the long-term health and financial security of Americans is not compromised due to temporary job loss" (CMWF release, 12/12). The complete survey results are available at http://www.cmwf.org/programs/insurance/duchon_securitymatters_512.pdf. Note: You will need Acrobat Reader to view the report.