NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Even High-Income Americans are Abandoning Health Insurance

November 22, 2002

The soaring cost of health-insurance premiums isn't just the problem of the poor. Affluent Americans are dropping their coverage as well.

  • While the working poor make up the biggest chunk of the 41.2 million Americans who lack insurance, 811,000 people with household incomes above $75,000 joined the ranks of the uninsured last year -- bringing that group's total to 6.6 million.
  • The reasons higher-income households go without coverage vary -- some are starting businesses and can't afford the extra expenses, and some lost their insurance when they were laid off.
  • And some are healthy and willing to take the chance they'll stay that way.
  • Then there are those who got sick -- even with mild conditions -- and can't find an insurer willing to offer them a policy.

Economists call those who could afford to buy insurance but choose not to "free riders," because they use public hospitals or emergency rooms if they fall ill. They also reduce the number of healthy people in the overall insurance pool, which potentially raises rates for everyone.

Source: Julie Appleby, "More High-Income Americans Go Without Health Insurance," USA Today, November 22, 2002.

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