The plight of the uninsured has only worsened since the early 1990's. Over the last ten years, about 1 million people each year have been added to the ranks of those who lack coverage in any given month. In 1987, 69.2% of people under age 65 had health insurance through a job or a family member's job. In 1996, that percentage declined to 64%. It is critical that affordable accessible health care again becomes a high priority on the national agenda. There are some hopeful signs. Both Democratic candidates, former Senator Bill Bradley and Vice President Gore, have in fact begun to offer some proposals to address the problem of the uninsured.
WHO ARE THE UNINSURED: Most people who lack health insurance work or have family members who work.
- About 11 million of the uninsured are children under age 18.
- Most adults who lack health insurance work for small and medium size firms, work part time or are self-employed.
- The majority of the uninsured live in households with annual income under $30,000; and are disproportionately young.
- In 1987, 15% were uninsured;
- in 1990, 16%;
- in 1993, 17.3%; and
- in 1996, 17.7%.
- In a typical month, about 43 million Americans - one in six - do not have health insurance.
- in 2005, if this trend continues, a projected 20% of people under age 65 - 50 million people - will have no health insurance in a typical month.
- costs are rising again and, in some sectors, are reaching double digits, despite low overall inflation figures;
- rising employee contributions are resulting in fewer people being able to get health coverage through their jobs;
- small businesses continue to struggle to pay for health insurance; and
- an increasing number of people work part-time, or are contract workers who are offered no opportunity for health coverage.
- Studies show they delay seeking care even when in need of medical attention, do not fill prescriptions and have trouble paying medical bills.
- They are generally in poorer health, in part because they lack access to proper care.
- While every day thousands of people who lack insurance receive medical care and cannot pay the bill, managed care is making it increasingly difficult for providers to offer "free" care [achieved by shifting costs to those who can pay] to the uninsured.
- In addition to the growing number of uninsured Americans, many people are underinsured - that is, they have inadequate coverage. People lacking adequate health insurance are at risk of having to spend more than 10% of their annual income on medical care.
The Church has consistently worked throughout the years to urge the federal and state governments to offer genuine, affordable, accessible health care coverage to all people. From the time of the first document issued by what was to become the USCCB, through Pacem in Terris, Health and Health Care, and A Framework for Comprehensive Health Care Reform, USCCB has called for action to address the human need for health care.
In order to place the issue back at the top of the national agenda, USCCB is working with the Catholic Health Association [CHA] to urge members of Congress, the Administration and candidates for office to address the continuing need for comprehensive health care reform. CHA has called on its members to send cards and petitions to all of the candidates urging them to place health reform on their agenda. In addition, CHA has assembled a committee of its members and other organizations, including USCCB, CCUSA and health care organizations to develop a framework for achieving universal health coverage.
What You Can Do:
It is very unlikely that Congress will undertake any comprehensive health reform agenda this year. The Patient Bill of Rights bill will again be discussed but may become more of a campaign issue than a genuine policy issue.
The real focus of activity is at the local level with candidates, including both incumbents and challengers, for office. Candidates should be asked how they will address the issue of the growing number of the uninsured, especially in these booming economic times. Raise this issue and keep raising it so that when they take office in 2001, they can be held to a promise to do something effective about the uninsured.
For more information, contact: Patricia A. King [202-541-3188 or firstname.lastname@example.org] or Cynthia Phillips [202-541-3235 or email@example.com].