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.
- 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
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.