We always talk about the 47 million or so people that do not have any type of health insurance in very sterile, non-real way. And I feel that many comments that are made come with certain implications – mainly that these people are poor, lazy, irresponsible, and somehow responsible for their lack of insurance. I know some are screaming, “But even if they are all of those things they still should be taken care of?” Maybe, but that is not my point here. Some might want to pipe in, “Yeah, I know a few and by providing this free care we are all being enablers.” Again, not my point here, but both sides should feel free to discuss below. However, before you do let’s take a closer look at who the uninsured are, and maybe equally importantly, what the trends are telling us.
In 2005 46.1 million Americans under the age of 65 were uninsured. Eight in ten come from working families. Seven in ten come from families in which one or more people work full-time. The poor (under the poverty level) and the near poor (under 200% of the poverty level) have a higher rate of being uninsured, 36% and 30% respectively. Most of the people in this bracket who are insured receive Medicaid or SCHIP (and count as insured). These two categories cover two-thirds of the uninsured. 80% of the uninsured are US citizens (KFF).
Maybe more striking, in 2006 another 1.3 million working adults loss their insurance and 1.2 million of those worked full-time. More surprisingly, those making $25,000- $50,000 saw large increases in the number of uninsured. And get this…1.4 million people who live in families making over $75,000 loss their insurance (Commonwealth Fund).
There are many reasons for the rising number of uninsured (and most intertwine), but to make it simple I will just list a few: rising health care costs (duh), change in workforce from manufacturing to service industries, a downward shift in percentage of workforce from large companies to small companies, and international pressures (using Friedman’s term a “flat” world).
So for those of you who are comfortable with their insurance status – watch out! Unless something changes a greater percent of the middle-class, and even, daresay, the upper middle class may be swallowed by the rising tide of the uninsured.