KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Despite Huge Expansion Of Coverage, Millions Of People Would Remain Uninsured Under Senate Bill

The Senate health care reform bill would leave as many as 23 million people without insurance by 2018, providing a problem for Democrats who ultimately want universal health care, The Washington Post reports.

"But those who would be left uninsured have drawn little attention. This is in part because their ranks would include many who choose not to get health insurance, even though they can afford it - such as some healthy people under 30, who have little effect on rising health-care costs because they rarely go to the doctor." Many of the uninsured--about one-third--would be illegal immigrants who would not be offered expanded insurance.

Others say that it is difficult to reach 100 percent coverage and that the Congressional Budget Office "has not released a breakdown of who would make up the 23 million. Along with illegal immigrants and people who choose not to buy coverage, there are two groups of people likely to be uninsured: those who are eligible for Medicaid but don't sign up for it, and those who would qualify for an exemption from the coverage mandate because paying for insurance would take up more than 8 percent of their income" (Bacon, 1/2).

The Associated Press/Los Angeles Times reports in the meantime that physicians - including free health care nonprofit Remote Area Medical - are sometimes offering free care to the poor. During a recent stint at a high school in Tennessee, RAM served 701 patients over 1 ½ days. "Its dentists have extracted 852 teeth and filled 234 others; 345 pairs of eyes have been tested; 87 people have been examined by a medical doctor" (Geller, 1/2).

The Contra Costa Times/Times-Standard reports that the National Health Service Corps are also helping serve the poor. "Last month, the corps received a $193,000 grant to improve its recruitment and retention of culturally competent, community-oriented health professionals in California's community clinics and health centers. … According to the NHSC Web site, there are more than 9,000 job vacancies nationwide just for the corps. NHSC currently has 3,800 clinicians in service" (Tam, 1/2).

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