HIAA: One-Fourth Of Americans Could Be Uninsured By 2007
More than 53 million non-elderly Americans could be uninsured by 2007, but if the nation sees an economic downturn or higher-than- expected health costs, the number could reach 60 million, or 25% of Americans, according to a new survey released yesterday by the Health Insurance Association of America. The current percentage of non-elderly uninsured Americans is 18%. Overall, the study found that the number of uninsured Americans has increased 35.5% over the past decade, mostly due to family income not rising proportionately to health care costs (HIAA report, 12/10). "This study is an important wake-up call for health care policymakers," said incoming HIAA President Chip Kahn (HIAA release, 12/10).
'Down With Legislation'
CongressDaily reports that "HIAA is trying to change the focus of the health care debate from further regulation of [HMOs] to the larger problem of insuring the uninsured, which would produce more customers for HIAA members" (Morrissey, 12/10). The study, conducted by Dr. William Custer of Georgia State University's Center for Risk Management and Insurance Research using 1998 Census Bureau data, revealed that certain state-level reforms intended to increase access -- such as coverage mandates for specific benefits and small-group reforms - - actually increased premium costs and served as a barrier to coverage. Kahn noted that the study showed laws mandating coverage on a "guaranteed-issue" basis, coupled with regulations mandating how much health insurers charge for premiums, "increase the chance that individuals will be uninsured up to nearly 29%" (HIAA release, 12/10). The study also found that requiring health insurers to provide mental health parity "increased the probability of being uninsured by 5.8%."
Community Rating: No Good?
The study found that rating bands, implemented by about one-half of the states in hopes of controlling insurance premiums, have increased the rate of uninsurance by 5.1% for individual enrollees and 15.8% for group plan enrollees. CongressDaily reports that although "rating bands reduce premium costs for the oldest and sickest policy holders, HIAA officials argue they also raise the price for the young and healthy," who then opt out of plans, causing overall rates to rise. In the three states with community rating systems, in which insurers charge the same rate regardless of age or risk, the study found the chance of an individual lacking insurance rose 11.3% for individual policy holders and 28.5% for small group enrollees (12/10). The study found that high-risk pools "were associated with increased health insurance coverage," decreasing by 1.5% the probability of an individual being uninsured (HIAA report, 12/10). The report is available through HIAA's website at http://www.hiaa.org. Please click here to view a copy. Note: You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to read the PDF file.