Average Americans Without Health Insurance Are Young, Healthy

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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Recently there has been a frenzy of articles in the news media about a crisis in our healthcare delivery system. We are told there are 46 million people without health insurance. Because of this believed "crisis" many are calling for immediate government intervention with a nationalized healthcare rescue plan passed within ninety days of President Obama's inauguration.

According to the United States Census Bureau in 2006, there were 45.7 million people in the U.S. (15.3 percent of the population) who were without health insurance. Another way of saying this is that 84.7% of the American people do have health insurance!

Does this mean that 15.3% of the population can't afford health insurance or don't have access to healthcare? Based on the Census Bureau data almost 18 million of the uninsured make more than $50,000 per year and almost 10 million of them have an income of more than $75,000 per year!

It may come as a surprise to many, but the Census Bureau data shows that the average uninsured person in the United State makes an above-average income. A great many young Americans who are financially well off and are not covered by their employer, voluntarily choose not to purchase health insurance.

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According to the Commonwealth Fund, Americans aged 19 to 29 comprise one of the largest and fastest-growing segments of the uninsured population.

The Census Bureau Survey breakout shows that over 10 million of the people considered uninsured are not U.S. Citizens. Even though they don't have health insurance there is a federal law that says that all hospital emergency rooms must treat anyone who comes into the emergency room. Thus, if they can't pay, they still can get free care.

Many of the 14 million of the uninsured poor and low-income Americans are eligible for either Medicaid or SCHIP (children's health program), but have no knowledge of these programs and have not been signed up.

It is clear that there are many programs that are not being fully utilized. Is a government that has not fully implemented its existing programs, after so many years, capable of writing new and cost effective healthcare legislation? Can the 535 members of Congress control their own "earmarks" spending to implement the needed improvements or changes in our healthcare system without runaway costs?

Any major proposed changes in our healthcare system should be tested in at least 3 states that volunteer to see if it is cost effective and does not create additional problems. There should be a bipartisan committee containing practicing physicians, nurses, hospital administrators, auditors, statisticians and citizens evaluating the outcomes. Let us fix our healthcare system, but not destroy it.

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Comments

Both my father and myself fall into the category of the 10 million making over $75,000. There are two reasons why this is the case. First, we own our own businesses in our respective fields, and second, we are uninsurable on an individual basis due to pre-existing conditions, some congenital. We both suffer from expensive pre-existing medical conditions which cost tens of thousands per year. Though we have both been employers at times, we have never had the scale to obtain group plans without medical evaluation. There are many of us who look like we're doing just fine financially who would buy coverage for the simple reason that medical bills are the #1 cause of bankruptcy in America. Furthermore, saying one has adequate medical care because one has access to an emergency room is ridiculous. Not only do the health problems of people without primary care tend to be more advanced before treatment is sought, but such care is the most expensive approach. It has the effect of tying up emergency care resources unnecessarily, impeding rapid treatment of much graver conditions. The end result is that the costs of such avoidable ER visits gets shifted onto those patients with insurance, driving up bills and then premiums for everyone else. And this ignores the reality, however unpleasant, that the expectations around payment of services demonstrably affects treatment outcome (see http://www.emaxhealth.com/2/72/27426/lack-insurance-affects-treatment-outcomes.html on this very site. Nobody wants to give up what's good about the current system, but employer-based health insurance is a poor solution. People don't get sick every time they get a job, nor do they get well when they are out of a job. And this presumes an employer offers a health plan, which is less and less likely for small business and big retail outlets alike. The most basic issues of portability, cost-shifting, and pre-existing conditions are dealt with piecemeal if at all, in some places and situations but not others. To present these statistics in a way which implies that things really aren't as bad as they are sometimes made out to be ignores how the economic consequences of the cost shifting affects employers and their competitiveness with companies that do not have this burden. Finally, someone will have to pay for the ER trip that 20-year old working a low-paying retail job if (s)he slips and fractures something, and has to have x-rays, diagnosis, splints or casts, etc., and chances are a young person working a crappy job isn't going to have the money to pay themselves in any timely manner--or at all if (s)he is laid off because consumer confidence has tanked like it has.