NCHC Writer
Default Image

Most Americans have health insurance through their employers. But employment is no longer a guarantee of health of health insurance coverage. As America continues to move from a manufacturing-based to a service economy, employee working patterns continue to evolve. An increasing reliance on part-time workers means fewer workers have access to employer-sponsored health insurance coverage. And due to rising premiums, many small employers cannot afford to offer health insurance. Companies that do offer health insurance often require employees to contribute a larger share toward their coverage. As a result, an increasing number of Americans have opted not to take advantage of job-based health insurance because they cannot afford it.

Number of Uninsured Continue to Grow: Over the last 10 years, an average of 500,000 people each year have been added to the ranks of those without health insurance.

  • Nearly 39 people were uninsured for the entire year in 2000 – one in seven Americans. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau)
  • Despite years of low unemployment and a strong economy, the percent of Americans under age 65 without health insurance climbed from 15.7% in 1990 to 18.0% in 1998. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau)
  • Although the strong economy has helped to decrease the number of uninsured over the last two years, that trend will be temporary. It is estimated that the combination of 11% health insurance premium increases that employers will incur on average and corporate layoffs due to the slowing economy, will result in another 1.2 million persons becoming uninsured in 2001. (Source: NCHC)
  • A sustained economic recession and escalating health insurance premiums could raise the number of uninsured to 55 million Americans by 2009. That means nearly 22% of all Americans under the age of 65 could be without health insurance in eight years.

Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance Declines: In 1987, 69.2% of the population under age 65 had health insurance through a job or a family member’s job. That percentage declined to 64.0% in 2000. (Source: The Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research and Educational Trust [HRET])

  • Four out of 5 uninsured Americans in 1998 lived in a family with a full-time worker. (Source: The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured)
  • Only 72% of employees are eligible for coverage from their employer. (Source: The Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research and Educational Trust [HRET])
  • Nearly 40% of businesses with fewer than 50 workers do not offer any health insurance.
  • Only 57 percent of workers age 18 to 64 were covered by their own employment-based health insurance plan. In firms of less than 25 employees, only 31 percent of workers age 18-64 were covered by their firm’s plan.

A New Generation of Uninsured: Today’s profile of the typical uninsured person is a young adult with an annual family income of less than $30,000, employed in a small firm or self-employed. (Source: NCHC)

  • Over one third (34%) of the uninsured reside in a family whose income is less than $15,000. (Source: Kaiser)
  • In 1998, 15% of the work force were part-time and contract workers, and one third of them were uninsured. (Source: NCHC)
  • About nine million of the uninsured are children under age 18. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau)
  • Over 35% of Hispanics are uninsured. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

Why Do the Problems of Uninsured Americans Matter to All of Us?

Being without health insurance affects peoples’ job decisions, financial security, access to care, and health status. The uninsured have reduced access to care which has a significant impact on their health because they do not get the routine and preventive care they need, and they tend to seek medical attention when they are sicker.In addition, when an uninsured person does get care and cannot pay the full cost, some of the bill is passed on to those who do pay – through higher health insurance premiums and in the form of taxes spent on our public insurance programs.The three major problems facing our health care system today – the growing number of uninsured, mounting costs and poor quality care – are deeply interrelated. Efforts to expand health insurance coverage are made more difficult by rising health care costs and insurance premiums. We can never have the highest quality of care possible if we have a system in which tens of millions of people lack coverage and are increasingly unable to afford medical care if they do not have health insurance. A continually rising number of uninsured people will further destabilize an already strained and faltering health care system.