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US Residents Cannot Afford Adequate Health Care

Armen Hareyan's picture

More than 40 million people in the U.S. said that they cannot affordadequate health care and that they did not receive needed healthservices because of costs, according to an annual report released by CDC on Monday, Reutersreports. According to the report, in 2005, nearly "15 million adultsdid not obtain eyeglasses, 25 million did not get dental care, 19million did not get needed prescribed medicine and 15 million did notget medical care due to costs" (Fox, Reuters, 12/3).

Inaddition, the report found that about 30% of young adults between theages of 18 and 24 do not have a usual source of medical care, 30% lackhealth insurance and 10% of adults between the ages of 45 and 64 do nothave a usual source of medical care. According to the report, one outof five adults younger than age 65 in 2005 said they were uninsured forat least part of the previous year and most said they were uninsuredfor more than 12 months. The report also found that about one-third ofchildren in families with incomes below the federal poverty level didnot receive dental care in 2005, compared with fewer than one-fifth ofchildren in higher-income families. Access barriers included regionalphysician shortages, lack of transportation to physicians and clinics,and shortages of organs for transplants.

The report alsoindicated some improvements in other areas of health care. About 87% ofyoung children between 19 months and 35 months old in 2006 receivedimmunization shots for bacterial meningitis, up from 41% in 2002. Thepercentage of adults with high cholesterol declined from 21% between1988 and 1994 to 17%, according to the report. In addition, about 25%of adults in 2004 avoided seeking treatment for cavities, down from 50%in the early 1970s, the report found (Reinberg, HealthDay/Washington Post, 12/4).

"Mortalityfrom heart disease, stroke and cancer has continued to decline inrecent years," according to the report. Life expectancy was 77.8 yearsold for a baby born in 2004, the report found.

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Health Care Spending

According to the report, "The United States spends more on health percapita than any other country, and health spending continues toincrease. In 2005, national health care expenditures in the UnitedStates totaled $2 trillion, a 7% increase from 2004. Hospital spending,which accounts for 31% of national health expenditures, increased by 8%in 2005."

The report found that private insurance plans paidfor 36% of total personal health care expenditures in 2005, while thefederal government paid 34%, state and local governments paid 11%, andpatients paid 15%. Prescription drug costs accounted for 10% of totalhealth care spending in 2005 (Reuters, 12/3).


CDC Director Julie Gerberding in a prepared statement said, "There hasbeen important progress made in many areas of health, such as increasedlife expectancy, and decreases in deaths from leading killers such asheart disease and cancer. But this report shows that access to healthcare is still an issue where we need improvement."

Report author Amy Bernstein, chief of the analytic studies branch at CDC's National Center for Health Statistics,said, "People tend to equate access to care with insurance. But accessto care is more than insurance," adding, "People assume that if youhave health insurance of any kind that you're OK, but that's not thecase." However, according to Bernstein, health insurance "is critical"to accessing care. She said, "We have a lot of evidence that people whodon't have health insurance are much less likely to receive servicesthan people who do" (HealthDay/Washington Post, 12/3).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily HealthPolicy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The HenryJ. Kaiser Family Foundation.