One in 50 million: A look at health care in America

Friday, October 16, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 4:31 p.m. CDT, Friday, October 16, 2009

COLUMBIA — As the health care debate rages on, a closer look at one of the catalysts for reform — the number of Americans without health insurance — sheds some light on how the current health care system impacts people's daily lives.

The people who are uninsured include a recent college graduate, someone with pre-existing conditions who can't afford coverage and another who — based on his experience — thinks health insurance isn't worth the expense.

The uninsured: By the numbers

  • At least 46.3 million non-elderly people in the U.S. lack health insurance
  • 23 million American adults are considered to be underinsured, meaning they have high premium costs relative to their income
  • About 83 percent of people without insurance live in families headed by workers
  • Almost two-thirds of uninsured workers have an employer who doesn't offer coverage

Source: The Alliance for Health Reform and the U.S. Census Bureau

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According to 2008 Census Bureau statistics, about 46 million U.S. citizens were without health insurance. With the recession, many experts are estimating that number to be rapidly approaching 50 million. Meanwhile, a 2004 survey by the Kellogg Foundation found that 77 percent of Americans say health care should be a right.

In Boone County alone, more than 21,000 people — or 14 percent of the population under the age of 65 — are uninsured, according to a county health assessment from 2007 and numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau.

A bill drafted by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., which was approved Tuesday by the Senate Finance Committee, is one of the more successful propositions seeking health reform.

It would prohibit private insurance companies from refusing coverage based on a person's health or "pre-existing conditions," including cancer, heart disease and asthma.

Rules for gauging a policyholder's premium cost, which is based on lifestyle choices like tobacco use, will be specified later after consultation with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, according to the bill.

The uninsured Missouri residents we begin profiling today are susceptible to thousands of dollars in medical bills should illness befall them. And many others are similarly forced out of insurance because they just can't afford it and aren't poor enough to qualify for coverage under Missouri Medicaid.

The Baucus bill envisions an independent entity or "Health Insurance Exchange" that would organize and compare "affordable health insurance" plans for people who can't afford what's been offered to them.

And for those who don't think insurance is worth the expense, the bill seeks to refocus incentives for medical professionals to improve the quality of care that, it hopes, will help improve the affordability of health insurance.

Starting this week, the Missourian tells the stories of Boone County residents who don't have health insurance. They're your neighbors and co-workers, but each is just one in 50 million.

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Ray Shapiro October 18, 2009 | 4:09 p.m.

("The report then refers you to the CBO’s report on How Many People are Uninsured and for How Long. This fascinating report informs us that, of the large numbers cited, roughly 45% of the people included in that statistic are not the chronically uninsured, but rather people who are in transition between jobs and are likely to have health insurance again within 120 days.
Next, we need to go back to the Census Bureau report and turn to page 31 where we are informed that their total number includes the category of those who are listed as “non-citizens” (which are carefully broken out from naturalized citizens vs. native born citizens.) The non-citizen rate of uninsured individuals clocked in at 43.8%, or roughly 9.4 million non-Americans. Since these people are not here legally and not paying into the system, that portion of the crisis is better addressed in a debate on immigration issues, but taxpaying Americans don’t need to be on the hook for that segment of the total.
But according to the same Census report, there are 8.3 million uninsured people who make between $50,000 and $74,999 per year and 8.74 million who make more than $75,000 a year. That’s roughly 17 million people who ought to be able to “afford” health insurance because they make substantially more than the median household income of $46,326.
The liberal Kaiser Family Foundation puts the number of uninsured Americans who don’t qualify for government programs and make less than $50,000 a year between 8.2 million and 13.9 million.")
source and more:

(Report Comment)
John Lloyd Scharf October 31, 2009 | 4:29 p.m.

Of that "50 million," there were 45,000 who died without health care. With health care, 98,000 died FROM health care because of malpractice. The question is do we want to trust that largest corporation in the world, the U.S. Government.

We have seen how well the government delivers on its promises and its bureaucracies pursue the money without giving us benefits on so many levels. Imagine another organ of the government that only ultimately must listen to the Secretary of the Treasury - another "service" of which is the IRS.


I have listed a connection to the HR3962, a few videos, two summaries, and the new taxes coming from this health care "reform" on my blog listed above for detailed information.

(Report Comment)
Allan Sharrock October 31, 2009 | 6:39 p.m.

I have a question about people who die without health care. I mean technically anyone who cancels their plan the day before their death would be dieing without health care. I think a better question and one that really isn't measurable is how many people died because they couldn't get treatment. I am willing to bet that number would be significantly smaller considering all the charity hospitals the nation has.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro October 31, 2009 | 7:52 p.m.

@Mr. Sharrock:
That's a much more meaningful and realistic way to look at deaths in America.
I sometimes wonder how many of these same "uninsured people" would still be dying even if they had some kind of paper contract.
I have made peace with the inevitable and realize that people die because it's their time.
(Insurance policy or not.)
As long as there's access to care, what's the problem?

(Report Comment)

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