Health Care 2008 is a blog dedicated to keeping its readers abreast of the latest news in the health-care industry, especially with regard to the 2008 presidential election. As such, its intended audience is anyone interested in what the presidential candidates say they will do to keep America healthy, and what their plans are for reforming the broken health-care system in the United States. This could be any voter at all. However, for the purposes of this assignment, I will focus on those potential readers who will be directly affected by any health-care plans imposed by the elected president; that is, the uninsured.
- Total number of uninsured Americans in 2006: 43.3 million (although current estimates put the figure at 47 million or thereabouts)
- Percent of Americans uninsured in 2006: 16.8
- Percent of Americans insured by private companies in 2006: 66.5
- Number of uninsured children (under age 18) in 2006: 9.3 million
- Percent of children with public health coverage in 2006: 32.3
(Source: National Center for Health Statistics)
Despite these statistics, many news stories have been published recently that estimate one in three Americans under age 65 has been uninsured at some point in the past year.
Many times, the uninsured are low-wage workers. According to the American Hospital Association, only 43 percent of those earning $7 an hour or less are offered employment-based coverage, compared to 93 percent of workers who earn more than $15 an hour. Other uninsured people are elderly or students, but the largest group is young adults. According to Rock the Vote, 13 million people aged 19-29 do not have health insurance, partly because most insurance companies cut children off from their parents’ policies at age 19 unless they are students (or at 25 even if they are students), and partly because young people are less likely to be financially stable. They are more likely to have temporary or part-time jobs that do not offer health coverage, and even if they are covered, this group struggles to pay the high premiums. There is also an invincibility factor, according to a June 2007 article in the Dallas Morning News. Young people figure that they are healthy, and they don’t need insurance. On a Duke University forum, one previously uninsured graduate student put it this way:
“It really wasn’t that big a deal when I had no coverage, since as a young, relatively healthy person I didn’t ever find myself needing health care (thank God), but … it terrifies me to even consider what I’d have done if I had broken my leg or something. Health insurance is the best example of something you don’t need until you need it.”
Kate Pothoven, 27, a Northwestern University Hospital lab technician who is pursuing a medical degree, is another young person who was forced to go without insurance for a while because her parents’ policy dropped her after college.
“At the time, I had just enrolled in grad school, and soon I would be able to have the school’s insurance,” she said. “I was a little bit worried, though, because I was driving from Michigan to Colorado for school and praying the whole time nothing would happen to me.”
Pothoven waited almost three months to get health coverage from the graduate school, and with a kidney condition, she was very frustrated at having to wait so long.
“I was kind of freaking out because if something had gone wrong with my kidney, I would have been out of luck.”