Numbers of Uninsured Americans Up Exponentially Since 2001

The numbers of the uninsured in the U.S. have continued to increase, most likely in relation to the economic climate’s wave of unemployment. The results of a survey put out by The Commonwealth Fund states that 49 million working Americans have spent 10% or more of their yearly income on medical costs and premiums. Even though they had health insurance, 31% of the individuals polled stated that had neglected health issues due to the high cost of deductibles, co-pays, and premiums.

Additionally, approximately 52 million U.S. residents had no health insurance at all, which is a serious increase from the 38 million uninsured in 2001.

As the United States does not have comprehensive universal health care like most other developed nations, insurance is most often tied to workers’ jobs, where employer policies are the norm. During the recession, approximately 57% of those who had enjoyed health insurance through their jobs lost them due to layoffs, placing them into the ranks of the uninsured.

Alternate coverage for those who had lost employer-assisted plans are expensive, such as COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act), a plan which allows the person to continue receiving care through their previous insurer for a certain period of time; COBRA is very expensive, as the premiums aren’t subsidizes in any way, and the person pays and individual rate instead of that paid by the employee pool in the group policy through the job. Only 14% of laid-off workers continued their coverage through COBRA. Of all laid-off workers, only about 25% were able to find alternate coverage, and this includes those who utilized COBRA.

Karen Davis, president of The Commonwealth Fund, stated: “The report tells the story of the continuing deterioration of health care accessibility, efficiency, safety and affordability over the past decade. All this, despite the fact that the United States spends more than any other country on health care already. Most recently it has failed the millions of Americans who lost their jobs during the recession and lost health benefits as well, leaving them with no place to turn for affordable health care coverage.”

Almost 75% of Americans who attempted to find alternate individual coverage, 19 million people, discovered that is was extremely hard or completely impossible to get health insurance which was within their budgets or met their needs; others were denied coverage entirely or charged much higher premiums due to pre-existing conditions which had been covered by their previous policies.

“The silver lining is that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has already begun to bring relief to families. Once the new law is fully implemented, we can be confident that no future recession will have the power to strip so many Americans of their health security,” continued Davis.

The Affordable Care Act health care reforms will, according to The Commonwealth Fund, bring these types of health insurance injustices and abuses to a halt. The ACA also will give U.S. residents new health care rights and benefits which they had not been able to afford previously. Furthermore, elaborates TCF, examples of such benefits include offering more coverage to children, those with pre-existing conditions, helping more children get health coverage, putting an end to  lifetime and the majority of annual care limits, allowing adult children to remain on their parents’ policies until age 26, and offering broader access to preventative services.