According to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, in 2013, over 41 million people were uninsured – that’s almost 13% of the population of the United States. When surveyed, 61% of respondents said they did not have health insurance because the cost was too high and/or because they had recently lost their job (and thus lost coverage). Tellingly, only 1.7% of respondents claimed that they did not have insurance because they did not need it. Almost everyone recognizes that health insurance is a necessity, but high costs and a lack of availability have prohibited many people from receiving health insurance in the past.
So, who are these 41 million uninsured people? Statistics reveal that they are primarily members of low-income working families. For example, almost 80% of the uninsured were in a family with a worker, and 60% of uninsured individuals had a family income below 200% of the poverty level. This lack of insurance for these people has drastic negative effects on their health. For example, 30% of uninsured adults went without needed care due to the cost, and uninsured individuals are much less likely to receive preventative care and services for chronic diseases.
Contrary to popular belief, health providers can choose not to provide care to uninsured patients, and even though emergency departments are required to stabilize all individuals, those who do not have insurance are not more likely to use emergency rooms than insured individuals. Ultimately, this results in a more unhealthy population, and since the uninsured are less likely to get preventative care or screenings, the health conditions they do require medical care for are often much more severe (and thus costly) to treat than they would have been if caught earlier.
On top of all this, those who do not have insurance are often charged more for the same care they do receive. On average, those who pay out of pocket are charged 2.5 times more than those covered by health insurance and more than three times the amount paid by Medicare – and many of these charges are undisclosed and vary drastically from hospital to hospital.
For these reasons and more, many people are taking advantage of the new provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) during this open enrollment period and browsing the new insurance marketplaces to find an insurance plan that works for them. You can see what plans are available now and find out if you qualify for discounts and subsidies by going to the website for Covered California. And even if you already have insurance, it can’t hurt to shop around and see what’s out there.
If you’re looking for a new plan or if you want to make changes to the plan offered by your employer, make sure your insurance covers health care with Meritage Medical Network. We are a healthcare network representing our local physician members, and we provide health care and administer benefits for HMO members in Marin, Napa, and Sonoma Counties. Our expert medical and administrative staff are dedicated to ensuring that you receive the highest quality health care available. Visit our website to find out how you can join the network!
Anderson, G. F. (2007, May 8). Hospitals charge uninsured and “self-pay” patients more than double what insured patients pay. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Retrieved from https://www.jhsph.edu/news/news-releases/2007/anderson-hospital-charges.html
Kaiser Family Foundation. (2014, October 29). Key facts about the uninsured. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Retrieved from https://kff.org/uninsured/fact-sheet/key-facts-about-the-uninsured-population/