16% of Americans are without health insurance

Thursday, January 4, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 10:00 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

More than 46 million Americans, or about one out of every six, are without health insurance.

It’s a number that increases every year, according to the Kaiser Commission, which provides information for the Henry Kaiser Foundation, a nonprofit, private foundation focusing on the major health care issues facing the nation.

For the lucky ones with health insurance under the age of 65, it is usually provided through employers — 61 percent in 2005. This does not mean those without insurance are unemployed. Two-thirds of the uninsured are low-income and eight in 10 of these people come from working families, according to the Kaiser Foundation. And according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the highest portion — 43.6 percent — of uninsured people are noncitizens.

What this means is that as health care costs rise ($1.4 trillion in 2001; $3.1 trillion projected for 2012, according to Kaiser Foundation) and health insurance costs increase, more Americans are left behind under the existing health care system.

It is a good thing that most employers offer insurance since a single premium averaged more than $3,500 annually for employer and employee contributions in 2004 with employees contributing an average of $640, according to Kaiser.

Earlier this year the Massachussetts legislature voted into law, and Gov. Mitt Romney signed, an individual mandate on the purchase of health insurance with government subsidies. This universal form of health insurance is one way states are trying to decrease the uninsured rate. At the other end of the spectrum are health savings accounts, endorsed by Republicans and President Bush. These plans are a high-deductible plan for people with extra money who aren’t part of a larger insurance pool to set up an account that is portable.

It appears that with health care costs rising and uninsured rates climbing under the current health insurance system, adaptive changes are on the horizon.

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