Nearly half of working adults were uninsured or underinsured last year

May 14, 2013

About half of all working adults were either uninsured or underinsured for at least part of last year-and that doesn’t just include low-income Americans. Nearly 60% of adults with moderate incomes were uninsured or underinsured, according to a new report from the Commonwealth Fund.

About half of all working adults were either uninsured or underinsured for at least part of last year-and that doesn’t just include low-income Americans. Nearly 60% of adults with moderate incomes were uninsured or underinsured, according to a new report from the Commonwealth Fund.

The organization’s 2012 Biennial Health Insurance Survey also revealed the reversal of a nearly decade-long trend of rising uninsured rates in the 19-to-25 age group. For that group, the number of uninsured fell from 48% to 41% from 2010 to 2012, the Commonwealth Fund reports. The group says the reversal may be due to a provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that allows young adults to stay on their parents’ health insurance plan until age 26.

In terms of other uninsured groups, the Commonwealth Fund report found that the percentage of uninsured Americans overall, or those who had gaps in their coverage, rose steadily between 2003 and 2010, growing from about 16 million in 2003 to 29 million by 2010. But between 2010 and 2012, the number of uninsured Americans leveled off to about 30 million, the report adds. This plateau may be due in part to slower healthcare cost growth and lower healthcare spending by consumers, as well as provisions of the ACA, according to Commonwealth Fund researchers.

“The early provisions of the [ACA] are helping young adults gain coverage and improving the affordability of healthcare during difficult economic times for American families,” says Sara Collins, PhD, a Commonwealth Fund vice president and the study’s lead author. “It will be critical to continue to monitor the effects of the law as the major provisions go into effect in 2014 and beyond to ensure it achieves its goal of near-universal, comprehensive health insurance.”

Although the number of uninsured may be leveling off, more and more Americans are skimping on their healthcare needs because of cost. The report shows that 80 million people say that they either didn’t go to the doctor or fill a prescription over the last year because of the cost. In 2003, only about 63% reported skipping care because of cost.

Additionally, the report notes that in 2012, 41% of working-age adults-75 million people-had problems paying their medical bills or were paying off medical bills over time, up from 58 million in 2005. Nearly 18% of adults were contacted by a collections agency over unpaid medical bills, and 16% had to change their way of life because of medical debt. The report goes on to state that an estimated 32 million people’s credit scores dropped as a result of medical debt, and roughly $4 million had to declare bankruptcy because of their medical bills.

Of particular interest for primary care physicians is the revelation that uninsured adults are less likely to receive preventive care. In fact, less than half of uninsured women in 2012 received mammograms, compared with 77% of their insured counterparts.

 

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