Nearly sixty million Americans during the first quarter of this year had no health insurance, and a significant proportion of them have chronic diseases and require medical treatment, a new report from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has revealed. That is one-fifth of the whole population of the country, by far the highest percentage of people without health care cover in the developed world. The CDC report stresses that this figure has implications for societal and individual health costs. Millions of American uninsured go without needed medical treatment because of the costs, resulting in deteriorating health and a larger medical bill in the long term.
The report authors gathered information from the NHIS (National Health Interview Survey) for the period between 2006 and 2009, plus early release information for the first three months of 2010. They identified how many people had no health insurance or gaps in coverage. They also set out to find out what impact lack of health care cover had on people's decisions to forgo health care.
Below are some highlights of the report's findings:
- During the first three months of 2010, 59.1 million individuals had no health insurance at all for some time during the twelve months prior to their interview. In 2009 the figure was 58.7 million and in 2008 56.4 million.
- 82.8% of those without any health insurance in 2009 were between 18 and 64 years of age.
- 32.1% of people aged 18-64 with a family income of $43,000 to $65,000 had no insurance for part of the preceding twelve months.
- A 18 to 64 year old who had no health insurance during the previous twelve months had a 7 times higher chance of forgoing health care treatment because of cost, compared to somebody with continuous insurance.
- 47.5% of 18-64 year olds with diabetes and no health insurance would forgo urgent medical care, compared to 7.7% of those continuously covered.
Having more Americans with continuous health care cover means fewer people forgoing much needed treatment, which in turn reduces complications from illnesses. Complications from illnesses eventually cost much more money, both for the individual and society.
In most of Western Europe, these kinds of statistics and figures stopped being an issue over half a century ago. In the United Kingdom, for example, a country not ranked highly for health care by its Western European neighbors, even a figure of 7.7% of people with diabetes forgoing treatment would trigger a public outcry - and that is the figure in the USA for people with continuous cover.
The authors of the report wrote:
The data in this report support previous findings that continuous insurance coverage is an important factor in reducing delayed or forgone health care, which other studies have associated with avoidable hospitalizations for persons with chronic conditions.
"Vital Signs: Health Insurance Coverage and Health Care Utilization - United States, 2006-2009 and January-March 2010"
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Written by Christian Nordqvist