In 2007, 46 million Americans did not have health insurance; of these 46 million, 9.4 million are uninsured children. Because medical insurance is tied to employment, job-based coverage is affected by health care costs rising faster than wages. People often lose their insurance when they become unemployed or they or their spouses retire, and children frequently lose their parents’ plan insurance when they turn 19.
Other reasons an individual or family may not have medical insurance are restrictions that have been emplaced. The lack of affordability of premiums is a large contributor to the uninsured. Medical underwriting practices, such as many states allowing risk rating by age and health status, make coverage unaffordable or cause an individual to be ineligible for coverage. Due to enrollment policies and varying eligibility from state to state, as well as the fact that enrollment policies can change depending on the economic conditions of the states that administer the programs, restrictions for an individual or family to become eligible for public programs like Medicaid and SCHIP are vast.
Universal health care would help society pay for the high costs of the uninsured while not taking away private plans that would continue to provide competition in health care and maintain the high quality of health care that Americans enjoy currently. Costs of increased morbidity and mortality among uninsured Americans are estimated to be $65 to $130 billion per year. In 2003, there was an estimated $35 billion of uncompensated care to the uninsured and the costs have continued to go up since then.
Rural hospitals with a high uninsured census have fewer ICU beds, which affects access to care in the community. Urban hospitals with a high uninsured census are less likely to have trauma centers. Hospitals with a high uninsured census have overcrowded emergency rooms and exceptionally long wait times, and have lower payment rates and fewer specialty staff. If everyone were insured, even only with the basics, the quality of conditions and care would go up all over the nation, creating more feasible hospital options for everyone and creating jobs.
The uninsured create problems not only for hospital settings, lowering quality of conditions and care, but they also adversely affect the national economy. Businesses lose profitability every year because of lost productivity from uninsured workers. Senior human resource offices representing the nation’s largest resource company put the cost of reduced productivity at $87 billion to $126 billion for the year 2004. Employers pay additional costs when health care providers treat the uninsured, amounting on average to $922 per family. American automobile manufacturers have recently suffered, claiming that $1,400 to $1,500 of the cost of every car or truck can be attributed to health care benefits. Providing universal health care would help, in part, solve the economic crisis by helping reduce bankruptcy and repossession.