Florida, alas, a national leader in uninsured
With Congress and the Obama administration discussing how to reform the nation’s health care system, a new report looks at what has happened since the last significant reform effort ended in 1994 without any comprehensive congressional action. Photo (Getty Images, St. Petersburg Times) is of Miami's Robert Granville whose insurance company refused coverage of home care after two visits.
A new analysis called "At the Brink: Trends in America's Uninsured 1994-2007" from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation documents the deteriorating scenario unfolding since then:
* Nationwide, nearly 9 million more Americans are uninsured.
* Six million more working people are uninsured in the United States.
* Nationwide, average costs paid by an employee for an individual health insurance premium have risen nearly eight times faster than average U.S. incomes.
* The percentage of non-elderly people with private health insurance has decreased to just 67 percent, down 6 percentage points nationwide.
Florida fares especially poorly in this new study. Of Floridians age 64 and younger, 3,683,924 or 24.3 percent were uninsured in the 2006-2007 period studied. That's up sharply from the 2,332,493 or 19.5 percent uninsured on average in the earlier 1994-1995-1996 period. Only New Mexico (25.6 percent) and Texas (27.4 percent) topped Florida's 24.3 percent rate of uninsured.
Remember this analysis looked at 2006-2007 and does not account for the sharp economic downturn and rising unemployment of 2008 and 2009.
“The case for reform couldn’t be clearer,” stated Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “Further inaction means that costs rise, businesses struggle, and workers go without. As high as the numbers of uninsured people seem to be, they don’t even reflect the current crisis with millions of Americans losing their jobs, which puts their insurance status in jeopardy. And the more people who become uninsured, the harder it is on our health care system.”
The report, elaborated upon in this New York Times story, was prepared by the State Health Access Data Assistance Center at the University of Minnesota. Researchers averaged data from the U.S. Census Bureau from 1994-1996 and compared it with average figures from 2006-2007.
The report also shows average costs for an individual insurance policy have increased 61 percent -- from $2,560 in 1996 to $4,118 in 2006. Nationwide, the amount that employees pay for an individual policy has increased 79 percent, with wages in the United States increasing just 10 percent over the period.
“The rising cost of health care has largely been borne by workers who are not getting raises because of it and employers who are seeing these costs eat into their profit margins,” said Lavizzo-Mourey. The report was released during "Cover the Uninsured Week," a nonpartisan campaign organized by the foundation to advocate for health coverage for all Americans.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist