The number of uninsured Americans will balloon another 6.9 million next year, stretching the number of uninsured to 52 million, according to a report released this week in the journal Health Affairs. The results are further evidence that when the price of health insurance goes up, the number who can afford it goes down.
"We're seeing faster increases in the number of uninsured, and because of the poor economy, that means more hospitals and physicians will have more demand from people for uncompensated care," says Richard Kronick, who co-authored the paper with University of Calfiornia San Diego colleague Todd Gilmer.
Among workers not covered as a dependent or by a public program, the number of uninsured rose from 23% in 2002 to 25.1% in 2006 and is expected to be 26.4% in 2010.
Their study cautions that estimates do "not directly take into account the additional effects of job losses, which are likely to add millions more to the number of uninsured Americans."
The recent stimulus package that provides 65% subsidies toward continuation of healthcare coverage for some laid-off workers "will help. But our research demonstrates once again the importance of more comprehensive action to extend adequate and affordable health coverage to all Americans," the researchers said in a statement.
"Because of the number of Americans who have lost their jobs or will lose them in the coming months, the increase in the number of uninsured people is, if anything, likely to exceed the projections in this paper."
Kronick was a former senior healthcare policy advisor in the Clinton administration. Gilmer is a specialist in health policy and the economics of tobacco use.