The numbers of middle-class Americans lacking health insurance has risen sharply, while the percentage of employers offering health benefits has declined, according to recent health care research studies.
The percentage of working-age Americans with moderate to middle incomes who lacked health insurance for at least part of the year rose to 41 percent in 2005, a dramatic increase from the 28 percent in the same category in 2001, a study released on Wednesday found.
More than half of the uninsured adults surveyed in the study said they struggled to pay medical bills, while 20 percent of working adults in the survey pool were paying off medical debt of $2,000 or more, according to a report by the Commonwealth Fund, a New York-based private health care policy foundation.
The study of 4,350 adults also found that people without insurance were more likely to forgo recommended health screenings, such as mammograms, than those with coverage and were less likely to have a regular doctor than their insured counterparts.
“It represents an explosion of the insurance crisis into those with moderate incomes,” Sara Collins, a senior program officer at the Commonwealth Fund, told MSNBC Wednesday. Collins said the study also illustrates how more employers are dropping coverage or are offering plans that are just too expensive for many people.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the percentage of businesses offering employee health plans dropped to 60 percent in 2005, from 69 percent in 2000, according to the latest annual report on employer-sponsored health insurance by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research and Educational Trust.
About 45.8 million Americans did not have health insurance in 2004, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Overall, the percentage of people without insurance rose to 28 percent in 2005, from 24 percent in 2001.
“The jump in uninsured among those with modest incomes is alarming, particularly at a time when our economy has been improving,” Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis, a co-author of the report, told MSNBC. “If we don't act soon to expand coverage to the uninsured, the health of the U.S. population, the productivity of our workforce, and our economy are at risk.”
The timing of the report coincides with other public efforts to draw attention to the topic. A coalition of groups, led by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, are planning Cover the Uninsured Week, May 1-6, the focal point of which is the website www.covertheuninsured.org.