Institute of Medicine Report Predicts Rise in Number of Uninsured, Profiles Population
An Institute of Medicine study released yesterday found that the increased cost of health insurance and a slower economy will likely boost the number of uninsured Americans in future years, the AP/Nando Times reports (Schmid, AP/Nando Times, 10/11). In the report, titled "Coverage Matters: Insurance and Health Care," researchers on the IOM's Committee on the Consequences of Uninsurance outlined who lacks health insurance in the United States, "how coverage is gained and lost" and "why so many people" lack health insurance ("Coverage Matters: Insurance and Health Care," October 2001). The report found that about two-thirds of Americans receive health insurance through their employers or families, and many Americans "gain or lose" coverage when they marry, divorce or move to new jobs. As a result, one out of seven Americans lacks health coverage for a year at some point in his or her life, and many lack coverage for "shorter periods." Increased health care costs and a slower economy may also prompt employers to pass more of the cost of insurance premiums to employees, who may decide that they cannot afford the increased cost (IOM release, 10/11). Employees currently pay about 14% of the cost of individual health insurance and 27% for family coverage. In addition, 13.6 million uninsured Americans have employers that do not offer health insurance. The report also found that Medicaid and CHIP often have "stringent" eligibility and enrollment requirements that "can make coverage difficult to obtain and hard to keep." According to Iowa Health System President Mary Sue Coleman, who helped draft the report, "Unless health insurance is made more affordable, the number of uninsured Americans is likely to continue growing over time" (AP/Nando Times, 10/11). Families USA Director Ron Pollack added that the report "demonstrates how many working families not covered through employment-based insurance fall through the cracks" (Families USA release, 10/11).
The IOM report also "debunked" a number of "unfounded ideas" that Americans have about the uninsured (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/12). Researchers outlined a number of "pervasive popular ideas" that "frustrate attempts to address" the problem of the uninsured ("Coverage Matters: Insurance and Health Care," October 2001). For example, the report notes that despite the belief that most uninsured are unemployed or recent immigrants, 80% of uninsured Americans "are in working families" and immigrants "make up only a small percentage" of the uninsured population (San Francisco Chronicle, 10/11). In addition, despite the "popular misconception" that Americans who lack health insurance "get the medical care they need," uninsured Americans often do not visit a doctor when they become ill or need treatment for a chronic condition. Many who lack health insurance "tend to forgo necessary care until their condition becomes intolerable," and hospital emergency and outpatient departments serve as their "regular source of care" (IOM release, 10/11). "A lot of the general population have unfounded ideas about who the uninsured are and whether it matters if they're insured or not," Dr. Sandra Hernandez, who helped draft the report, said (San Francisco Chronicle, 10/11). The IOM report, the first in a series of six, is available at http://books.nap.edu/html/coverage_matters/.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.