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Americans Without Health Benefits Sets Record

Sep 5, 2006
 

The number of Americans without health insurance rose to a record in 2005 as medical costs increased three times as fast as wages, according to forecasts for a Census Bureau report. The total has climbed every year since President George W. Bush took office.

Deputy assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Health and Human Services from 1993 to 1995 stated that, “We’ve had absolutely no federal effort or interest in insuring the uninsured since 2000.”

 

Harvard University researcher Robert Blendon and Uwe Reinhardt, a professor of health economics at Princeton University, said the number of people without health insurance probably rose. The 2004 total was almost one in six Americans. Surging costs are keeping the number from falling as the economy expands, health-policy researchers say.

The average expense of providing medical care for a family of four rose 9.6 percent to $13,382 this year, according to a survey by the Seattle-based Milliman consulting group. That is the cost for medical care for one person with diabetes.

The cost of insurance bought through an employer increased 9.2 percent in 2005, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation in Menlo Park, California, as average hourly earnings climbed 3.2 percent.

“Due to the rising cost of health care and health-care insurance, you see a continued decline in workers accepting coverage when it’s offered and employers offering it,” Emory’s Thorpe says.

Frustrated by the lack of federal leadership on health care, states have jumped ahead and moved toward making sure all citizens have health insurance, said Marty Sellers, a Philadelphia-based consultant who advised Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in designing his state’s program.

Massachusetts passed the nation’s first law requiring all adults to have health insurance by July 1, 2007. Vermont, Illinois and Rhode Island are considering similar plans.

The fight to get more Americans insured this year united the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, representing 3 million businesses, with some of the biggest unions, the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union. The organizations joined the American Medical Association and dozens of religious and nonprofit groups in a May “Cover the Uninsured Week” campaign.

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