Insurance: Not offered or not affordable

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    Chart depicting characteristics of nonelderly uninsured in 2008.

    - Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured

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    Number of uninsured children and adults, 2004-2008

    - Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured

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    Barriers to health care among nonelderly adults, by insurance status, 2009

    - Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured

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    Financial consequences of medical bills, by insurance status, 2008

    - Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured

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    The nonelderly uninsured by age group, 2008

    - Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured

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    Percentage of applicants denied coverage

    - Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured

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    Premium amount applicants are asked to pay

    - Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured


Steve Chiotakis: Starting today -- and for the rest of the week -- we'll be looking at
what different groups have at stake in the health care debate. Doctors, small business, hospitals. It's part of the series, "The Cure," our continuing coverage on the remaking of health care in America. We begin with a look at the uninsured. More than 46 million people in this country cannot qualify for coverage, or can afford it, or both.
These patients often end up in emergency rooms, one of the most expensive ways to get treated -- or go without medical attention. Marketplace's Tamara Keith reports.

Tamara Keith: Frank Brown runs his own environmental consulting firm. Last year, business was so bad he would have been better off in a minimum wage job. Then in January, his health insurance premiums jumped from $425 to more than $600 a month.

Frank Brown: Once it gets to $608 a month and you're down to beans and rice for dinner, you have to make some choices.

He went to the doctor for one last check up.

Brown: And then I walked out I said, well that's it, I'm going to have to be on my own for a while.

Like Brown, most people who don't have insurance do work -- or they're in a family with someone who does.

Diane Rowland is executive director of the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured:

Diane Rowland: When we ask people why they're uninsured, the overwhelming number is that it's either that I'm not offered it through my employer or I can't afford it.

Rowland says the various health care bills take aim at the affordability problem.

Rowland: The largest share of the cost of health reform is to make coverage affordable for the low income and modest income population that's uninsured.

According to a Kaiser analysis, Medicaid could be expanded to cover 17 million of the lowest income adults. And another 16 million people could get government subsidies to help pay for coverage.

June Turner is more interested in the provision that would prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. Eight years ago, Turner had a heart attack.

June Turner: The brokers tell me that even if the company would insure me that the rates would be just astronomical.

Turner says she gets chest pain sometimes, but she doesn't go to the doctor because it's too expensive.

Turner: It feels like walking on a tight wire.

Like so many people, she's balancing her health with the fear of financial ruin.

In Washington, I'm Tamara Keith for Marketplace.

Log in to post8 Comments

Health care has become theft in my eyes,it took all of my money then slapped me in the face. On average I made $1,200 net every two weeks at work, and my health care was charging me $850 every two weeks with a $5,000 deductable for a family of four. This company did not pay for anything ,and I mean nothing not one dime for the birth of my second child,and everything else we had going on witch was not a lot we are fairly young , but the government picked up the bill on all of our issues. ( THANK YOU UNCLE SAM ). People its time ! ACTIONS ARE NEEDED

@JP M from MD:

Young adults that choose not to carry health insurance do have an advantage in that they are the age group least likely to have to use the coverage, but don't forget this demographic isn't swimming in cash. If they are going to college, after rent, food, books and tuition there isn't much left. Those who can remain on their parent's health coverage do so, but quite a few, including myself when I was in college, had little left to spend on health insurance. It's a calculated risk. Young adults with new families are in this demographic as well - they may be employed at small businesses that at best only offer catastrophic health care coverage because that's all they can afford, which is barely better than no coverage at all.

Americans should not be forced to choose between food, shelter and health care coverage, but that is the system we have in place now. Young adults often have to choose, however they are playing good odds that they will not need health insurance. Ironically, we all gamble with health care coverage - do you really know if you are covered if you get sick? Do you think you won't get dropped at the first opportunity if you do get sick? To the insurance companies that offer the "illusion" of choice - if you won't cover someone, what choice do they really have?

"More than 46 million people in this country cannot qualify for coverage, or can afford it, or both."
Thanks for finding those 16 million missing people! Obama's speech last week referred to "over 30 million Americans who don't have health care". So EXACTLY how many people NEED health care reform? Thanks - Chester

I think the larger problem is that small businesses owners can't afford insurance AND care. My husband owns a small business. Insurance for our family of 4 is roughly $1500 a month, which is the first bill paid by the office. The insurance premiums get paid, the office bills get paid, the employees get paid, but my husband does not get paid. So we have coverage, but little to pay the co-pays with.

Can't get coverage. Can't afford coverage. Here's a third reality - Have coverage but can't afford to use it. When I did have health insurance it cost so much just to afford the highest deductible that I couldn't afford to go a doctor... and I HAD health insurance! I *need* affordable health care, I don't need health insurance.

Please do more on or about health care and talk on both pro and con of what is in place at present for me it something like this 466.65 per month and 1500.00 deductable and a 25.00 co- pay so just to go to see a doctor for a general appointment cost about 550.00 give or take and that is just to see a doctor and does not count anything that could be added after just buying your way to the doctors office like the party in your story said when you are down to eating rice and beans and then do i eat or do i keep investing in health care ? So more like the rest of america people will just not be able to afford purchases of common need's

Women and children in an abusive relation use health care services far more than average - in all catagories. In fact, "Domestic violence victim", is one of the most powerful predictors of increased health care utilization. Obvious solution: Deny health insurance coverage. Even AFTER abusive relation has ended.

In 9 states, "Domestic Violence Victim" is considered to be a "pre-existing condition" and a valid reason to deny pay for treatment of related injuries. Or to deny coverage completely.
http://pandagon.net/index.php/site/comments/health_care_reform_and_domes... More

I did not see any reference to insurance companies refusing coverage to Domestic Violence offenders.

Thank you,
Alan B. Barley
2718 N. Richey Blvd
Tucson AZ 85716

Whoa, wait. That 46 million number includes young adults that choose not to have insurance. They qualify, but choose not too.

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