NCHC Writer
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Embargoed for Release: Monday, October 20, 1997

Pat Schoeni

Washington, DC (October 20, 1997) — Despite one of the greatest periods of economic growth in our country’s history, the number of uninsured people continues to increase, with over 40 million Americans without health care coverage in 1995. Of those 40 million, almost 60% were workers.

Since the end of the health care reform debate in 1994, almost three million more people have become uninsured. Indications are that those numbers will continue to grow at the rate of almost one million each year. If that trend continues, the number of people without health insurance will approach 47 million by the year 2005. At that time, one in five Americans under the age of 65 will be uninsured.

“The paradox of the increasing number of uninsured workers in an era of a growing economy, with low inflation and unemployment, challenges the myth that economic growth alone will cure the problem of the uninsured,” said Henry E. Simmons, M.D., President of the Coalition. “When the economy next experiences a downturn, the already tenuous connection between employment and health insurance will be eroded further and the number of uninsured could grow at even a faster pace than currently predicted. The realities of our changing economy and workforce require that new and innovative approaches be developed to address the problem of the uninsured,” he added.

The causes of the continued increases in the number of uninsured and their impact on middle class families are the focus of a study conducted for the National Coalition on Health Care by Kenneth E. Thorpe, Ph.D., Director of Tulane University’s Institute for Health Services Research.

The study, The Rising Number of Uninsured Workers: An Approaching Crisis in Health Care Financing,” points up serious questions about the future of employer-sponsored health insurance for many American workers. High and rising health care costs have forced many employers – particularly in small businesses – to drop health insurance. While employment is increasing in the service sector, many of the firms in that sector do not offer health insurance. Middle class workers with families, many of whom work on a part-time or temporary basis, are most affected by the decisions of employers not to offer health insurance or to eliminate existing coverage. They cannot afford to bear the entire cost of health insurance while at the same time they do not qualify for public programs.

The Coalition believes that swift action is necessary to stem the rising tide of the uninsured or we will be faced with a problem of such magnitude that it will affect every aspect – cost, quality and access – of our health care delivery system. Whether solutions are developed at the state or federal level, through private sector insurance or public programs, the United States cannot escape the need for fundamental reforms that will extend coverage to the country’s entire population.

The study was conducted with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The National Coalition on Health Care is the nation’s largest and most broadly representative health care alliance working to improve America’s health care. The Coalition is a nonpartisan organization comprised of nearly 100 member organizations representing 100 million Americans in large and small businesses, labor unions, and the nation’s consumer organizations, religious faiths and primary health care providers. In existence since 1990, the National Coalition on Health Care has as its Honorary Chairmen former Presidents Carter and Ford.

Full copies of The Rising Number of Uninsured Workers: An Approaching Crisis in Health Care Financing are available by contacting the National Coalition on Health Care at (202) 637-6830.

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