HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Friday, May 5, 2006

A Primer on the Insured and Uninsured

Kate Steadman from Healthy Policy will be leaving blogging (hopefully for only a little bit) but with her departure provides us with a helpful primer on the uninsured as well as a follow-up Insured Primer.  Here are some of the interesting and rather discouraging facts that she reports in her Insured Primer:

• The average annual cost for insurance in 2004 was $3,695 for individuals and $9,950 for families.

• Employer-sponsored premiums are growing at an immense rate: 8.2% in 2000, 10.9% in 2001, 12.9% in 2002, 13.9% in 2003.

• The number of employers providing health insurance has dropped 9% in five years; from 69% in 2000 to 60% in 2005. 

• The dollar amount of co-pays is increasing as well; for HMO participants the number paying at least $20 for office visits has increased from 1% in 1998 to 22% in 2004.

• The major problem with affordable health insurance right now is the total health spending increase, which is making premiums cost more and more every year.  And as health expenditures are estimated to be $2.16 trillion in 2006, and are projected to rise to over $4 trillion in 2015, it's showing no signs of slowing. Per person health spending is $7,110 this year and is projected to increase to $12,320 by 2015. And unless you predict your wages will double during that time, be prepared to shell out more and more.

• Although many policy analysts encourage greater cost sharing in the form of higher deductibles and copays, the average insured person already pays 34% of their health costs out of pocket. Don't count on greater cost sharing to reign in the expected increase to solve our spending crisis.  Americans can only afford so much more out of pocket without forgoing care altogether, which creates crises in worker productivity and absenteeism.

From in the Uninsured Primer:

• 41% of the uninsured adults reported skipping medical care because of cost last year.  This number doesn't include the 20% of children who lack health insurance. 

• 23% of uninsured adults report their health as "fair" or "poor," compared with 12% of insured adults.

That percentage will tick higher and higher while we distract ourselves from solving this problem with brave new explorations into the world of Health Savings Accounts.  As health costs continue to outpace inflation markedly and wages remain stagnant, fewer and fewer of the uninsured will be able to afford any medical care.  State and hospital funds that currently act as reimbursement for the cost of acute treatment will cover less and less. 


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