Willing, but Unable….

An article in this month’s Health Affairs (subscription required) breaks down why the U.S. Census Bureau’s statistic pointing out that one-third of “higher income” Americans is uninsured is misleading. The Census statistics are an important source for health coverage data and is also used by the federal government to allocate funds.

In 2006, according to Census statistics, more than one in every three Americans (37.8%) lived in a household with income higher than $50,000.

But, the Health Affairs article points out”…many of the uninsured who live in higher income households do not fit a profile of “financially able but unwilling.”

Moments when income is “high” could be a temporary, as with self-employed or transient workers. So are moments of uninsurance, when a person is between jobs.

Additionally, “households” does not equal “one family.” Many of these “households” have many generations living under one roof: adult children at home who are contributing to the family income, but are not allowed to glom onto their parents’ policy; parents living with their adult children, who need to purchase separate policies. Adults in “high income” households could also be in roomate situations, and therefore need separate policies. So if you separate out the individual family units, earnings are far below the $50,000 to $75,000 mark.

That’s why the debate about affordability of health care in this year’s reform efforts is so essential. Policymakers need to find a way to help this middle-income group, sandwiched between super-poor and super-rich find affordable and meaningful health coverage.

As the report shows, being uninsured is not a symptom of being “young, invincible” and brazen as many would like to believe, but more because insurance simply costs too much for people who are trying to survive by pooling their resources and huddling under one roof.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

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