KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Report Cites Rise In Uninsured Middle-Class Americans

A report released Wednesday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Barely Hanging On: Middle-Class and Uninsured, looks at the rise in the level of uninsured middle-class people in the last eight years.

USA Today reports on the most significant national statistics affecting middle-class families earning between $45,000 to $85,000 annually. "Between 2000 and 2008, more than 2 million middle-class people became uninsured. Their ranks rose to 12.9 million of the estimated 46.3 million Americans without health insurance." They also note the rise in what the average worker paid for a family policy, 81 percent, in eight years, versus a decrease in average household income (Winter, 3/17).

Dallas Morning News: Between 2000 and 2008, uninsured middle-income Texans "grew 40 percent, from 1.22 million to 1.71 million," according to the same report.

Devon Herrick of the National Center for Policy Analysis, a conservative think tank based in Dallas, said the numbers were largely due to population increase, and that "during the past 10 years, the number of people with health insurance increased by 24 million nationwide, while the number without insurance increased by 3.8 million … Typically, those who lack insurance are uninsured for only a short period of time – more than half will have coverage within a year," Herrick said (Roberson, 3/17).

The Record: In New Jersey, "the total number of uninsured in the middle class averaged 327,000 in 2008, up from 293,000 in 2000," according to the report. "Total cost for a family insurance policy in New Jersey increased 44 percent since 2000 - to $12,789 in 2008, according to the report. Even though employers pay most of the tab, the amount employees pay in premiums for a family plan increased 88 percent in the same time period" (Layton, 3/18). 

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: The total number of uninsured Americans reached 46.3 million Americans in 2008, before the effects of the economic downturn had begun to set in. The report says "experts assume millions more have become uninsured since the 2008 data, due to job loss and rising costs of health insurance since that time."

In Pennsylvania, the middle-class uninsured increased "from an average of 249,000 people in 2000 to 381,000 in 2008, which represented 37 percent of the 1,025,000 uninsured in the state" (Templeton, 3/18). 

Daily Courier (Arizona): The Arizona state program for the poor, Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), has seen a large increase in applicants. "In February this past year, 185 patients applied for AHCCCS ... This February, 350 applied." The number of uninsured middle-class people in Arizona "averaged 250,000 in 2000. It jumped to 317,000 in 2008" (Prescott, 3/17).

Gallup: A separate poll administered by Gallup finds that the increase of uninsured American adults is continuing into 2010. "More than 16% of American adults were without health coverage in January and February of this year, similar to the heightened number of uninsured recorded throughout much of 2009," they report. "This trend reflects a continuation of an increase that began as the economy worsened and layoffs accelerated in November of 2008."

"In terms of those who are insured, Gallup finds that so far in 2010 fewer are getting their health insurance through an employer and more are relying on government coverage (Medicare, Medicaid, or military/veterans' benefits) than in 2008" (Mendes, 3/17).

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