A newly published study from the Kaiser Family Foundation examines the current spending on care for the uninsured and projects additional medical spending if the population had health insurance coverage.
The study finds that the uninsured will spend $30 billion out-of-pocket for health care in 2008 while receiving $56 billion in uncompensated care, three quarters of which will be from government sources.
The study is an update of a previous Kaiser study and also projects the additional cost to the nation’s health care system if all the uninsured were covered by insurance. If everyone were covered, overall costs would increase by $123 billion dollars, or an additional five percent of national health spending. The analysis does not assess how much a universal coverage plan would cost the government, which would vary depending on the details of the approach.
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Increases in the number of Americans with government health insurance — especially coverage from State Children Health Insurance programs – helped lower the overall uninsured rate in the United States in 2007 to 45.7 million from 47 million in 2006, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures released today. However, the percentages of Americans with employer-based insurance continued to fall. The 2007 numbers do not take into account the effects of economic downturn that has overtaken the country since late last year.
The percentage of women with no health insurance was 13.9 percent in 2007, down from 14.2 percent in 2006, but still higher than the rate in any other year since 1999 (which is as far back as the Census Bureau’s current set of historical tables go). The un-insurance rate in 2007 was far higher for women of color (Black women, 17.9 percent; Hispanic women of all races, 28.9 percent; and Asian-American women 15.7 percent) than for white non-hispanic women (9.6 percent).
Census bureau spokesman David Johnson acknowledged at a press conference today that the decline in the number of uninsured Americans could largely be attributed to increases in the number of children receiving coverage under government health insurance programs. The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) has been the subject of an ongoing battle between the administration and those members of Congress and Governors who want to increase the numbers of children covered by SCHIP.
“The numbers released today show the potential power of public insurance programs to provide desperately-needed coverage to uninsured Americans,” said Lois Uttley, Director of the MergerWatch Project and co-founder of Raising Women’s Voices for the Health Care We Need (RWV). She pointed out that women also benefit significantly from public health insurance programs.
The percentage of women who relied on government health insurance of any type (Medicaid, Medicare or military insurance) in 2007 was 29.8 percent, compared to 25.7 percent for men. A higher percent of women relied on Medicaid than did men (14.2 percent for women, compared to 12.2 percent for men), and the same was true for Medicare (15.4 percent of women had Medicare coverage, compared to 12.2 percent for men.)
Cindy Pearson, Director of the National Women’s Health Network and another Raising Women’s Voices co-founder, noted with concern that in 2007, 58.7 percent of women had employment-based private health insurance, down from 59.1 percent in 2006. The 2007 rate was the lowest for women in the nine years reported by the Census Bureau today. The highest rate for those years was in 2000, when it was 63.1 percent. The percentage of men with employer-sponsored insurance was 60 percnet in 2007, also at its lowest level since 1999.
“This decline in employer-sponsored insurance rings a real alarm bell, warning us that fewer and fewer women and men are able to get health insurance from their employers,” Pearson said. She added that since 2007, the economy has been slipping, and many Americans may have lost employer-sponsored health insurance in recent months.
The new Census data show continuing disparities in coverage that affected low-income people and people of color in 2007. While the percentages of Blacks and Hispanics without health insurance declined from 2006 to 2007, their rates of uninsurance were still dramatically higher than for non-Hispanic whites. The uninsurance rate for Blacks fell from 20.5 percent in 2006 to 19.5 percent in 2007, and the rate for Hispanics fell from 34.1 percent in 2006 to 32.1 percent in 2007. However, both groups had rates significantly higher than the uninsured rate for whites, which was 10.4 percent in 2007, down from 10.8 percent in 2006.
“Once again, we have seen strong evidence of health disparities in our country,” said Byllye Avery, founder of the Black Women’s Health Imperative and another co-founder of Raising Women’s Voices. “We must be committed as a nation to make health coverage a basic human right, and ensuring that everyone has access to health care.”