The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index project has released the results of a recent study concerning Americans and health insurance. According to the poll, 16.3% of Americans didn’t have health insurance in the month of February. Also, employer-sponsored health insurance has been steadily decreasing, dropping to an all-time low of almost 45% in the month of February.
Declines in health insurance being offered by employers to their employees as benefits have been occurring at the same that unemployment rates have been on the rise. Basically, employers have had to release employees and scale back on benefits in order to stay solvent in these troubled economic times.
The same organization determined at one in four Americans now receives their primary health insurance coverage from the government, in the form of Medicare, Medicaid or a variation of military or veterans benefits. This reliance on government health insurance spans all age groups and is especially prevalent in those with less education and who earn less, which debunks the common sentiment that rising health care costs for the government are based on an aging population.
The Well-Being Index started keeping track of U.S. adults’ health insurance coverage in January of 2008. At that time, which was the beginning of the Recession, the rate of uninsured adults was below 10%, but that figure rose sharply between 2008 and 2009, and has increased since.
The new healthcare reforms initiated by President Obama in 2010 will ultimately result in universal health insurance for all Americans, except for those who opt out of the system and pay a fine for this abstention. The Affordable Care Act will give tax breaks and other incentives to employers to offer health insurance to their employees, but it also substantially broadens federal health insurance by bolstering Medicare and Medicaid funding. Republicans and Democrats are clashing over the central issue of federally-mandated health care, and are especially polarized by the stipulation of a penalty for opting-out of health insurance.
Currently, the federal budget for 2011 is in limbo as the two sides have been unable to come to a compromise regarding many things, but the main issues being debated are cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. Although the Republican solutions will be unlikely to be passed, as the White House and the Senate are still under Democratic control, the figures brought up by the Gallup poll about how many Americans are uninsured is especially significant.
The Gallup poll was conducted between February 1 and February 28, on a random selection of 27,313 American adults in all 50 U.S. states. The selection was done by random dialing of phone numbers. Those who primarily spoke Spanish were polled by Spanish-speaking Gallup volunteers. The study was commissioned by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which seeks to give “best-in-class” recommendations for national policy on health and wellness issues.