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One in Five Working Adults Said to Lack Health Insurance

Experts say job losses pose new problems in era of rising costs

FRIDAY, March 27 (HealthDay News) -- Since Hillary Clinton unsuccessfully led the charge for national health care reform when she was first lady in 1994, about 9 million more Americans -- most of whom are working -- are without health insurance.

That finding and others in a new University of Minnesota report offer a state-by-state picture of people foregoing insurance because of rising costs and lack of income.

"The case for reform couldn't be clearer," Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said in a news release from the organization, which focuses on health and health-care issues. "Further inaction means that costs rise, businesses struggle and workers go without. As high as the numbers of uninsured people seem to be, they don't even reflect the current crisis, with millions of Americans losing their jobs, which puts their insurance status in jeopardy. And the more people who become uninsured, the harder it is on our health-care system."

The report, "At the Brink: Trends in America's Uninsured 1994-2007," found increases in uninsured residents, rising financial burdens for workers and decreases in private coverage in every state:

  • Nearly 46 million people in the United States are uninsured: 22 percent of them men and 18 percent women. This includes nearly one in five working adults, or 26.9 million people, the report found.
  • Employees, on average, saw their share of health insurance premiums increase 79 percent while their pay rose only 10 percent in the years covered by the report.
  • The average cost of an individual policy rose from $2,560 in 1996 to $4,118 in 2006, a 61 percent increase.
  • Private health insurance coverage among those who are not elderly dropped from 73 percent to 67 percent. The percentage of privately insured residents fell by at least 10 percent in Alaska, North Carolina, Utah, Vermont and Virginia.

"Fixing our broken health-care system is a critical part of fixing the economy, but it will not happen overnight, and it won't be easy," Lavizzo-Mourey said. "Fortunately, a lot of people are working together this time -- government and business, doctors and patients, Democrats and Republicans -- so that we can achieve real reform."

Not all news from the report was gloomy. It also found that fewer children were uninsured, with the rate of uninsured children falling by 13 percent, to 9.2 million. Experts attribute that to an increase in children being covered by such government programs as Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

More information

The Commonwealth Fund has more about the uninsured in the United States.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, news release, March 24, 2009

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