Health insurance coverage is one of the casualties in a bad economy. Sliding incomes mean cost cutting, and paying health insurance premiums can be the victim. People with employer-based jobs lose coverage when they lose jobs. And many jobs in the new economy are precarious, coming without health insurance.
Those of us with good health insurance are fortunate. Almost 50 million Americans (16.3%) lacked health insurance in 2010, according to the latest statistics compiled by the U.S. Census. That’s about the same as it was in 2009. Among those with health insurance, coverage by private programs is falling. It has been declining since 2001, and it fell again in 2010. Employment-based health insurance is falling as a part of this overall trend.
In contrast, coverage by public programs—Medicare, Medicaid, military health care, state health plans, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program—is rising. That’s why cuts to these programs have to be considered very carefully. Poverty is up, as we discussed on Monday. And children living in poverty are far more likely to be uninsured, compared to all children. Currently, 9.8% of children under age 18 do not have health insurance—about 7.3 million Americans.
It’s not surprising that Americans with higher incomes are more likely to have health insurance, compared to those with lower incomes: About 27% of Americans living in household with incomes less than $25,000 per year, in contrast to 8% of Americans with annual incomes of $75,000 or more.
The foreign-born population is especially likely to be without health insurance—more than twice as likely as the native-born.
Some say healthcare is a right, not a privilege. How about health insurance coverage? Should coverage itself be a right? Should everyone be able to get it, even if they can’t afford it? People without health insurance add to the costs of our already expensive healthcare system because they delay healthcare and get sicker, and often use costly services, such as the emergency room, for primary care services.
Are you alarmed by the decline in health insurance coverage?
Do you think getting health insurance is a right or a privilege?
Originally published at www.OurValues.org, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.