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Health insurance essential for health and well-being
Date:2/24/2009

WASHINGTON -- The evidence shows more clearly than ever that having health insurance is essential for people's health and well-being, and safety-net services are not enough to prevent avoidable illness, worse health outcomes, and premature death, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine. Moreover, new research suggests that when local rates of uninsurance are relatively high, even people with insurance are more likely to have difficulty obtaining needed care and to be less satisfied with the care they receive.

The number of people who have health insurance continues to drop, and employment-based coverage -- the principal source of insurance for the majority of Americans -- is eroding, a situation that is getting worse with the current economic crisis, the report notes. In 2007, nearly one in 10 American children and one in five non-elderly adults had no health insurance. The average amount employees paid per year for family coverage in an employer-sponsored plan rose from $1,543 in 1999 to $3,354 in 2008. If there is no intervention, the decline in health insurance coverage will continue, concluded the committee that wrote the report.

The committee called on the president and Congress to begin efforts immediately to achieve health coverage for all Americans. Steps must be taken to reduce the costs of care and the rate at which health care spending is rising to make that coverage sustainable for everyone, the report adds.

"Policymakers and the public can no longer presume that those without health insurance are getting the care they need through safety-net services such as charity care and emergency departments," said committee chair Lawrence S. Lewin, an executive consultant in health care policy and management. "The evidence clearly shows that lack of health insurance is hazardous to one's health, and the situation is getting worse because of the erosion of employment-based health coverage due to the current economic crisis
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Contact: Christine Stencel
news@nas.edu
202-334-2138
National Academy of Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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