The Uninsured

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As a growing number of Americans find themselves without health insurance, it is demanded that the United States explore innovative policies aimed at extending coverage. The high cost of expanding coverage raises many questions about how best to improve access while preserving individual choice and maintaining quality of care. Differing viewpoints among policymakers, insurers, doctors, hospital administrators, employers, public health advocates, and health policy researchers provide a complete picture of the current and desired state of American healthcare.

This report is gives a look at numerous factors affecting healthcare and how a lack of insurance has implications to not just the individual, but society as a whole. The number of America’s uninsured has increased steadily over the past quarter century. In 2005, nearly 47 million Americans were uninsured, representing close to one-sixth of the nation’s population. Suffering from high levels of economic insecurity and poor health outcomes, the uninsured place large costs on the U.S. economy. Success in extending coverage depends upon making health plans affordable enough so that individuals and families can obtain coverage without excessive financial burden. Trends in the United States economy continue to unravel the relationship between employer and employee, the means by which workers obtain group health insurance through their employers. The result has been an increasing number of uninsured individuals. Although President George Bush proposed a change in tax laws having an effect on health insurance in his 2007 State of the Union address, health insurance coverage has been a low-priority policy issue in Washington in recent years. Recent success by Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) in reducing the number of uninsured children has led to interest in expanding these programs to cover uninsured parents. Despite gradual progress towards expanding coverage to all, there are still many difficulties in actually implementing reform. These challenges include getting additional funding, creating more desirable plans, and ensuring participation.

As early as 1945, seventy-five percent of Americans favored national health insurance. Harry Truman tried to create a national health insurance system, but his attempts were futile, as special interests feared that national insurance would lead to racially integrated hospitals. Professor Jill Quadagno shows how medical care has evolved over the years. By the 1960’s, Medicare and Medicaid became dominant forces in the health care delivery system. In the early 1970’s, national health insurance became more prominent. By the early 80’s, TEFRA ushered in HMO’s, which Dr .Quadagno believes marked the beginning of a period of unforeseen premium growth.

Currently, the United States is the only major industrialized nation without universal health insurance. The US has a mixed public-private system of health insurance, which is comprised of the Federal Medicare program (covering people aged 65 and over and those who have been disabled for two years or more), State Medicaid programs (covering children from low income families and in some states their parents), voluntary employer based private insurance (covering many working families), and individual insurance (purchased by individuals who do not qualify for any of the above programs). One in five Americans, or 59 million people, reported not getting or delaying needed medical care in 2007. The breakdown of these 59 million people includes more than 23 million people reporting going without needed care and approximately 36 million people who delayed seeking care. Other research shows that tens of millions more Americans go without health coverage for shorter periods of time. As most elderly people are covered by Medicare, nearly all the uninsured are...
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