CRISIS OF THE UNINSURED: 2006 UPDATE
September 6, 2006
Despite claims that there is a health insurance crisis in the United States, the proportion of Americans without health coverage has changed little in the past decade. The increase in the number of uninsured is largely due to immigration and population growth, says Devon M. Herrick, a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis.
How Big Is the Problem? In 2005, according to Census Bureau data:
- More than 84 percent (247.3 million) of the 293 million U.S. residents were privately insured or enrolled in a government health program, such as Medicare, Medicaid or State Children's Health Insurance Programs (SCHIP).
- An additional 10 million to 14 million adults and children qualified for government programs but have not enrolled, experts estimate.
- Another 17 million live in households with annual incomes above $50,000 and could likely afford health insurance.
By these estimates, nearly 10 percent theoretically have access but have chosen to forgo insurance, says Herrick. The remaining portion (about 6 percent of the population) earns less than $50,000 annually.
Much can be done to reduce the number of uninsured, says Herrick. Instead of turning to taxpayers to solve the problem, we should use the free care money taxpayers are already providing to subsidize the purchase of private insurance. This is precisely what Gov. Mitt Romney is trying to do in Massachusetts.
Additionally, many of today's uninsured who do not consider health care a "good buy" may change their minds now that Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are available, says Herrick. Unused HSA funds can be rolled over for use in future years. HSAs make coverage more affordable and attractive for healthy and young workers who know their money isn't wasted if they do not need care in any particular year.
Source: Devon M. Herrick, "Crisis of the Uninsured: 2006 Update," National Center for Policy Analysis, Brief Analysis No. 568, September 6, 2006.
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