Health Insurance

Health Insurance
The United States is the only wealthy, industrialized nation that does not have a universal
health care system. Source: Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences
In 2006, the percentage of Americans without health insurance was 15.8%, or
approximately 47 million uninsured people. Source: US Census Bureau
Among the 84.2% with health insurance in 2006, coverage was provided through an
employer 59.7%, purchased individually 9.1%, and 27.0% was government funded
(Medicare, Medicaid, Military). (There is some overlap in coverage figures.) Source: US
Census Bureau
The primary reason given for lack of health insurance coverage in 2005 was cost (more
than 50%), lost job or a change in employment (24%), Medicaid benefits stopped (10%),
ineligibility for family insurance coverage due to age or leaving school (8%). Source:
National Center for Health Statistics
More than 40 million adults stated that they needed but did not receive one or more of
these health services (medical care, prescription medicines, mental health care, dental
care, or eyeglasses) in 2005 because they could not afford it. Source: National Center for
Health Statistics
Medicaid, which accounted for 12.9% of health care coverage in 2006, is a health
insurance program jointly funded by the federal and state governments to provide health
care for qualifying low-income individuals. Source: US Census Bureau
Medicare, a federally funded health insurance program that covers the health care of most
individuals 65 years of age and over and disabled persons, accounted for 13.6% of health
care coverage in 2006. Source: US Census Bureau
Medicare operates with 3% overhead, non-profit insurance 16% overhead, and private
(for-profit) insurance 26% overhead. Source: Journal of American Medicine 2007
Health Care Expenditures
In 2005, personal health care expenditures were paid by private health insurance 36%,
federal government 35%, state and local governments 11% , and out-of-pocket payments
15%. Source: National Center for Health Statistics
The United States spends twice as much on health care per capita ($7,129) than any other
country . . . and spending continues to increase. In 2005, the national health care
expenditures totaled $2 trillion. Source: National Center for Health Statistics
75% of all health care dollars are spent on patients with one or more chronic conditions,
many of which can be prevented, including diabetes, obesity, heart disease, lung disease,
high blood pressure, and cancer. Source: Health Affairs
From 2000 to 2006, overall inflation has increased 3.5%, wages have increased 3.8%, and
health care premiums have increased 87%. Source: Kaiser Family Foundation
The average family health insurance premium, provided through an employer health
benefit program, was $11,480 in 2006. Employees paid an average of $2,973 towards the
premium amount. Source: Kaiser Family Foundation
Infant Mortality
The United States ranks 43rd in lowest infant mortality rate, down from 12th in 1960 and
21st in 1990. Singapore has the lowest rate with 2.3 deaths per 1000 live births, while the
United States has a rate of 6.3 deaths per 1000 live births. Some of the other 42 nations
that have a lower infant mortality rate than the US include Hong Kong, Slovenia, and
Cuba. Source: CIA Factbook (2008)
Approximately 30,000 infants die in the United States each year. The infant mortality
rate, which is the risk of death during the first year of life, is related to the underlying
health of the mother, public health practices, socioeconomic conditions, and availability
and use of appropriate health care for infants and pregnant women. Sources: CDC and
National Center for Health Statistics
Life Expectancy
Life expectancy at birth in the US is an average of 78.14 years, which ranks 47th in
highest total life expectancy compared to other countries. Source: CIA Factbook (2008)
About half of the bankruptcy filings in the United States are due to medical expenses.
Source: Health Affairs Journal 2005
Health Care vs. Health Insurance
Health care is not the same as health insurance. Everyone in the U.S. - including those illegally in the U.S.
is guaranteed access to basic health care. Under a 1968 federal law, all patients seeking care in hospital
emergency rooms must be given a minimum level of treatment, regardless of their ability to pay or health
insurance status. The law applies to all hospitals that participate in Medicare -- which most do – and
requires the hospitals to provide initial patient screening, life-saving and "stabilizing" emergency care
and transfers to advanced trauma centers, if needed. Those services must be provided without asking
about the patient's ability to pay. Of course, the growing demand on hospitals to provide this minimum
level of free care contributes to rising health care costs.
Health Insurance Not Always a Financial Savior
People with health insurance are far from immune to soaring health care costs. In a June 30, 2009 article, the New York Times reported that, "An estimated
three-quarters of people who are pushed into personal bankruptcy by medical problems actually had insurance when they got sick or were injured."
Number of Uninsured is a Quickly Moving Target
In his nationally televised press conference on July 22, President Obama stated, "If we don't act, 14,000 Americans will continue to lose their health insurance
every single day." While this figure may be accurate, not all of those 14,000 people will lose their insurance permanently. The Congressional Budget Office
estimates that over the course of every year millions of Americans lose their health insurance, but only temporarily. Most people become uninsured
because they lose or leave their jobs and regain insurance coverage when they return to work. In 2007, the Census Bureau reported that 253.4
million people -- about 85 percent of the total population -- did have health insurance.
The Citizenship Factor
According to Census Bureau data, of the estimated 46 million "Americans" without health insurance, more than 10 million are non-U.S. citizens.
Some Just Don't Want Insurance
Many young workers, whose employers do offer it, simply do not consider health insurance. According to the Census Bureau, 18.3 million of the uninsured
are under age 34.
Under the Affordable Health Care Choices Act, health insurance will be mandatory. Individuals who fail to carry adequate coverage will face a tax penalty
of 2.5 percent of their adjusted gross income, capped at the national average premium for individual basic coverage.
The Affordability Factor
In 2007 the Census Bureau reported that more than 14 million people without health insurance earned annual incomes of at least $50,000, with 7.2 million
of them making over $75,000.
In December 2007, the Association of Health Insurance Plans issued a report showing that nationwide annual premiums for private health insurance policies
averaged from $2,613 for individuals to $5,799 for families.
Existing Government Health Care Plans Not Being Used
A 2003 Blue Cross/Blue Shield Association study concluded that, "More than 14 million uninsured Americans are already eligible for health insurance through
Medicaid and State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)." These people could automatically be signed up for these programs by seeking care at a
hospital. In addition, a Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute study shows that 7 out of 10 uninsured children could be covered if their parents
chose to sign up for existing government programs.
Quick Summary of the Health Care Reform Bill
The Affordable Health Care Choices Act of 2009 aims to see to it that 97 percent of the U.S. population has health insurance by 2015. The bill creates a public
health insurance option called an "exchange" operated through state-based "gateways" which would act as marketplaces where individuals and businesses could
shop for health insurance. The bill requires all individuals to have health insurance or face tax penalties. Businesses that do not provide health insurance for their
employees would be required to pay 8 percent of their total annual payroll into the public health insurance exchange system. The bill bans insurance companies
from denying coverage or increasing premiums because of pre-existing health conditions. For a more detailed look at the bill,
see Key Provisions of the House Healthcare Bill by Deborah White, Guide to Liberal Politics.
Health Care Statistics
Healthcare is one of the top social and economic problems facing Americans today. The rising
cost of medical care and health insurance is impacting the livelihood of many Americans in one
way or another. The inability to pay for necessary medical care is no longer a problem affecting
only the uninsured, but is increasingly becoming a problem for those with health insurance as
In 2007, nearly 50 million Americans did not have health insurance, while another 25
million were underinsured. (Source: Commonwealth Fund Biennial Health Insurance
Survey 2007)
The amount people pay for health insurance increased 30 percent from 2001 to 2005,
while income for the same period of time only increased 3 percent. (Source: Robert
Wood Johnson Foundation)
The total annual premium for a typical family health insurance plan offered by employers
was $12,680 in 2008. (Source: Kaiser/HRET Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health
Benefits, 2008)
Healthcare expenditures in the United States exceed $2 trillion a year. (SOURCE:
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Office of the Actuary, National Health
Statistics Group;) In comparison, the federal budget is $3 trillion a year.