The following statement was released today by Henry E. Simmons, M.D., M.P. H., President of the National Coalition on Health Care:
“An estimated 44.3 million Americans do not ha8, continuing a ten-year trend.
“The new Census Bureau report is alarming and represents a national disgrace. The number of Americans without health insurance jumped again last year by nearly a million – despite a booming economy, low unemployment, a sharp decrease in poverty, and far higher health care expenditures. We now have more than 44 million people who will get less health care, endure more pain and suffering, and have higher risks of death than their fellow citizens because they do not have health insurance.
“It is clear that we cannot grow ourselves out of a problem of this magnitude. Market competition cannot solve the problem, nor can any of the other measures proposed to date. The country’s health care system is caught in a downward spiral of increasing costs, serious quality issues, and decreasing access to care. Only much bolder and more comprehensive measures can solve these interrelated problems.
“The sharp increase in the number of uninsured children is especially troubling. Even through the nation spent billions of dollars on the new Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and enrolled nearly a million children, 330,000 more children were without health insurance in 1998 than in 1997.
“And what will happen to the number of uninsured if health insurance premiums continue to rise and if the economy slows? A Coalition study earlier this year projected that under those circumstances, as many as 62 million Americans could be uninsured in 2009. And we already are seeing premiums and other health costs escalate sharply.
“Fortunately, the public, members of Congress and presidential candidates are showing an increased awareness of the need to do something to reverse this course. But small steps won’t get us where we need to go – coverage for every American. Major changes are needed, and needed now.”
The following experts are available on Saturday and Sunday, October 2 and 3, to respond to press inquiries on the Census Bureau data and the uninsured issue:
Henry E. Simmons, M.D.
Ken Thorpe, Ph.D., Coalition consultant/Emory University
Mark Goldberg, Coalition consultant/Yale University (Sunday 1p.m. to 5 p.m.)
The National Coalition on Health Care is the nation’s most broadly representative non-partisan alliance working to improve America’s health and health care system. Its nearly 100 members include large and small businesses, labor unions, consumer groups, health professional and religious organizations. Former Presidents George Bush, Jimmy Carter, and Gerald R. Ford serve as the Coalition’s Honorary Co-Chairs.
NOTE TO MEDIA: Key facts on health insurance and health care costs are attached.
KEY FACTS ON HEALTH INSURANCE
- 11 million of the 44.3 million uninsured in 19ve health insurance, according to the latest figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau. The number represents an increase of about 1 million from 1997 to 19998 were under age 18.
- The percentage of Americans getting coverage through their jobs declined from 69.2% in 1987 to 64.2% in 1997.
- Four out of five uninsured Americans in 1997 were employed full time or lived in a family with a full-time worker.
- In 1997, 42% of uninsured people lived in households with an annual income of $25,000; 34% lived in households with incomes between $25,000 and $50,000 and 24% lived in households with incomes of about $50,000.
- About half (46%) of businesses with fewer than 200 workers did not offer health insurance in 1998; 98% of companies with more than 200 employees did offer health insurance, but only 83% of eligible employees took it.
- Government provides health insurance to one third (34.2%) of U.S. population (Medicare, Medicaid, government worker coverage, and military coverage); 43% of Americans have coverage through a private employer; 7% buy health insurance on their own and 16% are uninsured. (Data for 1997)
KEY FACTS ON HEALTH CARE COSTS
- The consumer price index (general inflation rate) is protected to increase 2.6% a year for the next four years. Health care costs are projected to rise and average 6.5% annually during that period.
- In 1997, national health spending was $1.1 trillion. It is protected to double to $2.2 trillion in 2008.
- After a period of low inflation in health insurance premiums (1994-1997), they rose an average 6.1% in 1998. Premiums are expected to increase 9% in 1999 and the rise may exceed 10% in 2000 and 2001, according to recent projections.
- The Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) – a bellwether of insurance pricing – experienced an 8.5% average premium increase in 1998, a 10.2% increase in 1999, and 9.3% for the 2000 contract year.
- In 1986, businesses spent an average of $1,600 per employee on health insurance. By 1997, that had risen to almost $4,000.
- In 1988 workers with health insurance at their jobs paid an average of $48 a month for family coverage. By 1997, workers were paying $115 a month on average for family coverage.
- Workers at firms with fewer than 200 employees paid 44% of the premium for family coverage in 1996, up from 34% in 1998.
- One in eight – 11 million – American families spent more than 10% of their income on health insurance premiums and direct out-of-pocket medical expenses in 1996. Experts agree that level of health spending makes it difficult for families to pay other bills.