Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Uninsurance rate in the middle class jumps upward quickly

We know that during the Bush administration, the number of people without health insurance has increased substantially. But a new report out shows where the largest number have been, and it has been a staggering increase.

Among people in the middle income bracket, the rate of people without health insurance has jumped from 28% in 2001 to 41% of the people in this income group in 2005. This compares to an increase of 4%, from 49% without health insurance to 53%, among people earning less than $20,000 per year, and an overall increase from 24% of the population without health insurance in 2001 to 28% last year.

WASHINGTON - The percentage of working-age Americans with moderate to middle incomes who lacked health insurance for at least part of the year rose to 41 percent in 2005, a dramatic increase from the 28 percent in 2001 without coverage, a study released on Wednesday found.

Moreover, more than half of the uninsured adults said they were having problems paying their medical bills, with 20 percent of working adults paying off medical debt —often $2,000 or more, according to a report by the Commonwealth Fund, a New York-based private, health care policy foundation....

It represents an explosion of the insurance crisis into those with moderate incomes,” said Sara Collins, a senior program officer at the Commonwealth Fund (emphasis added).

Collins said the study also illustrates how more employers are dropping coverage or are offering plans that are just too expensive for many people.

I know people trying to pay off bills as high as $80,000 on a moderate incomes. And for the idea that not helping people obtain health insurance saves the taxpayers money? Well, consider these facts from the article:

The study of 4,350 adults also found that people without insurance were more likely to forgo recommended health screenings such as mammograms than those with coverage, and were less likely to have a regular doctor than their insured counterparts...

The study also found that 59 percent of uninsured with chronic conditions such as asthma or diabetes either skipped a dose of their medicine or went without it to save money. One-third of those in that group visited an emergency room or stayed in a hospital overnight or did both, compared to 15 percent of their insured counterparts....

That study found that cost prevented 41.1 percent of uninsured adults from seeing a doctor, compared to 9.2 percent of individuals with coverage.

Meanwhile, 51 percent of women without health insurance haven’t had a mammogram in two years, compared to 22.8 percent of women with insurance

And 76.3 percent of uninsured men between the ages of 40 to 64 haven’t had the PSA test, which detects prostate cancer, in two years. That compares to 52.2 percent of their insured counterparts.

Cost of prescription meds, doctor visits, mammograms, PSA tests etc: tens of dollars. Cost of ER visits, hospital stays etc. that some of these people are using as an alternative when things get bad enough that they are forced to go? Thousands, even tens of thousands. And you can be sure that much of it is not paid by them, it is still passed on to either the government or to patients with insurance.

So, yeah, that is fiscal conservatism at work isn't it? The old adage, 'a stich in time saves nine' apparently doesn't apply to how conservatives think about health coverage.

Maybe this will get their attention:

“The jump in uninsured among those with modest incomes is alarming, particularly at a time when our economy has been improving,” said Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis, who helped write the study.

“If we don’t act soon to expand coverage to the uninsured, the health of the U.S. population, the productivity of our workforce, and our economy are at risk.”

Not that I would consider that the Bush economy is anywhere near as good as the Clinton economy, or even the Reagan economy were, but as it struggles back to life, this could threaten even what recovery there has been.

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