More Moderate-Income Adults Uninsured
The percentage of moderate-income U.S. adults who do not have health insurance during any part of the year increased to 41% in 2005, up from 28% in 2001, according to a study by the Commonwealth Fund released on Wednesday, the AP/Houston Chronicle reports (Agovino, AP/Houston Chronicle, 4/25). For the study, researchers surveyed 4,350 adults, focusing on those ages 19 to 64, using 25-minute telephone interviews between August 2005 and January 2006.
According to the study, 41% of adults with annual incomes between $20,000 and $40,000 did not have health insurance for at least part of 2005, compared with 35% in 2003 and 28% in 2001. In addition, the study finds that 18% of adults with annual incomes between $35,000 and $60,000 were uninsured for part of 2005, up from 16% in 2003 and 13% in 2001 (Whitehouse, Dow Jones Newswires, 4/26).
Among adults with annual incomes less than $20,000, 53% said they went without health insurance for at least part of 2005, compared with 49% in 2001. Overall, the number of people without health insurance increased to 28% in 2005 from 24% in 2001, the study finds (AP/Houston Chronicle, 4/25).
The researchers estimated that about 48 million U.S. residents are uninsured (Timiraos, Los Angeles Times, 4/26). The study also finds that:
- 67% of those without health insurance were in families in which at least one person worked full time, and nearly half worked full time themselves (Dow Jones Newswires, 4/26);
- Individuals without health insurance were more likely to forgo recommended health screenings and less likely to have a regular doctor than those with coverage;
- 59% of uninsured patients with chronic conditions either skipped a dose of their medicine or went without it because it was too expensive;
- One-third of uninsured patients with chronic conditions said they went to an emergency department, stayed in a hospital overnight or both -- compared with 15% of insured patients with chronic conditions (AP/Houston Chronicle, 4/25);
- 54% of working adults said they were paying off medical debt, which often was more than $2,000 (Los Angeles Times, 4/26);
- Almost two-thirds of adults who reported problems paying medical bills said they or a family member had health insurance when they incurred the debt; and
- More than one third of those surveyed reported problems or delays in getting care because of costs (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 4/26).
Sara Collins, senior program officer for the Commonwealth Fund and lead author of the study, said, "It's a cause for concern that [lack of health insurance] is obviously spreading into more moderate-income households. It's reflective of the fact that more employers are not offering coverage" (Los Angeles Times, 4/26).
She added, "These findings paint a disturbing picture of the day-to-day impact of being uninsured on the physical as well as financial health of millions of Americans," adding, "The uninsured are more likely to go without preventative care or screening tests that could prevent more serious and costly health problems."
Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access, said, "Between employers dropping coverage and health care costs going up, the uninsurance crisis is reaching more broadly across the population" (San Francisco Chronicle, 4/26).
Gail Shearer, health policy director at Consumers Union, said, "What those numbers do is cry out for public policymakers to take this challenge very seriously" (Los Angeles Times, 4/26).
The study and related materials are available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the study.
A separate study released on Wednesday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation finds that uninsured U.S. residents were four times more likely than insured residents to avoid seeing a doctor when they needed treatment. The study finds that 23% of uninsured adults said their health was "fair" or "poor," compared with 12% of insured adults (Los Angeles Times, 4/26).
In addition, the study finds that 77% of insured women ages 40-64 received a mammogram within the last two years, compared with 49% of their uninsured counterparts (Dow Jones Newswires, 4/26).