• 45 million people in the U.S.—most from working families—go without health insurance
• Almost 82 million Americans lacked health insurance for all or part of 2002 and 2003
• Nearly one out of five workers went without insurance in 2003
• Those who were insured in 2003 had to cover a 59 percent increase in their health care costs
• Four out of five uninsured Americans are from working families
• One in three of the uninsured were under the age of 65
• 11 million children are without insurance
• 25 percent of middle-income families don’t have health care insurance.
• The number of uninsured people younger than 65 has increased by more than 5.2 million people since President Bush took office in 2000.
The U.S. health care system is quickly moving from crisis to catastrophe. Medical costs go unchecked. Employers reduce and eliminate benefits. Illnesses cast working families into bankruptcy. Over 11 million children—the children of working parents—go without health care, because they go without health insurance. About 45 million working families—an increase of five million over the last four years—can’t go to the doctor, because they don’t have health coverage at work. Today, it costs about $10,000 a year for a family health care plan. In six years, that cost will double, and in a decade it will approach $36,000, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Prescription drug costs are out of control, with no relief in sight. In fact, the new Medicare Law that takes affect next year will leave millions worse off than they are now.
Growing Number without Insurance
The uninsured are forced to ignore basic health care requirements. By the time they do seek treatment, their concerns have usually developed into major illnesses and are left seeking emergency room care—the most expensive kind of medical treatment. In turn, the growing use of emergency procedures for those who can’t pay is one of the factors fueling the rise in health care costs that, eventually, are borne by everyone. The hospitals and doctors have to soak up the unpaid costs, which ultimately falls to all Americans in the form of higher health care and insurance.
Employers Shifting Health Care Costs
More and more employers are shifting the growing costs of health coverage to workers and retirees, forcing them to pay high out-of-pocket premiums, deductibles and co-payments. These employers are turning to the Wal-Mart model of health care coverage, which is much too expensive for workers to afford. These workers are being forced to rely on government programs, like Medicare, that state taxpayers pay for. Many studies have recently shown just how much the public pays for Wal-Mart’s refusal to provide affordable health care. For example, Wal-Mart workers in California rely on the state taxpayers for about $32 million annually in health-related services. In Tennessee, almost 10,000 Wal-Mart employees are on the state’s expanded Medicaid program.
Health Care Costs Result in Bankruptcy
Soaring medical bills are the cause of half of all bankruptcies in the U.S., according to a Harvard University study. These bankruptcies affect about two million Americans every year, including 700,000 children. The average income of these working families was $25,000—too much to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to afford the $10,000 average cost of family health care coverage. Surprisingly, 76 percent of those filing for bankruptcy had health insurance at the onset of the illness that bankrupted their family. Many simply couldn’t afford to continue health insurance because they accumulated so much debt from out-of-pocket payments, co-payments, deductibles and uncovered items like physical therapy or prescription drugs.
Rising Costs of Prescription Drugs
In addition, working families and seniors are being drained by the soaring costs of prescription drugs. The Bush Administration reconfigured the Medicare Program into a more complex, confusing and expensive system of health care. The plan increases the costs for traditional Medicare coverage of doctor and hospital visits by $25 billion, which comes directly out of the pockets of retired Americans. It institutes monthly fees for a Medicare drug card, but it specifically forbids Medicare from negotiating for better prices from drug companies. The reality of the new Medicare prescription drug plan is that prices for drugs purchased with the card are higher than what is available on the market today for many prescription drugs.
New Medicare Law in 2006
According to a Families USA report, approximately half of Americans in Medicare will be worse off than they are today when President Bush’s new Medicare Law begins in 2006. The combination of premiums, deductibles and co-payments will leave Medicare’s beneficiaries with large and unaffordable costs. Seniors will be required to spend considerably more each year for their prescription medicine because of the out-of-control costs of prescription drugs and rising out-of-pocket expenses.