Individual’s Lack of Health Coverage Affects Entire Family, IOM Study Says
If even one member of a family does not have health insurance, it can adversely affect the entire household, according to a study released yesterday by the Institute of Medicine, the Boston Herald reports. The study, based on 2001 Census Bureau information, found that 58 million people living in the United States either do not have health insurance or live in a family in which someone is uninsured. Twenty percent of all families have at least one uninsured member, the study says (Lasalandra, Boston Herald, 9/19). Dr. Arthur Kellerman, head of emergency medicine at Emory University and co-chair of the IOM committee that produced the study, said, "The stress of having even one uninsured family member can ripple through the household as other family members cope with their relative's illness, high medical bills and financial distress" (AP/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 9/19). The report notes, "Even in the healthiest of families, if one member has an accident, the resulting medical bills can affect the economic stability of the whole family." Families with uninsured members also tend to have fewer assets and are less likely to be able to borrow money to pay medical bills, the report states (Boston Herald, 9/19). Such families are disproportionately headed by a single parent and tend to include ethnic or racial minorities. Further, they often face "barriers to care," including cultural differences, less education and language problems. The study, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, finds that children are particularly affected by a family member's lack of insurance, especially if it is a parent. "The negative experiences of uninsured parents in obtaining care for themselves may affect their willingness to take their children for checkups or enroll them in public insurance plans," according to the researchers (National Academies press release, 9/18). The report also finds that the uninsured "tend to postpone medical care until symptoms are more developed and the disease is harder to treat," the Herald reports (Boston Herald, 9/19). The full report is available online.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.