Nowhere To Go But Up For The Poor Lacking Insurance, Says Study

In anticipation of the expansion of health insurance that will start in 2014 under the federal health care law, the Commonwealth Fund has begun tracking  coverage of low-income Americans. The first of the surveys reconfirms what’s already well-known: the poor are starting from a pretty bad place in terms of coverage. A few examples:

  • A third of low-income Americans (under 133 percent of poverty, or $29,726 for a family of four) have lacked insurance for at least two years–10 times the rate of higher earners (over 400 percent of poverty, or $89,400 for a family of four).
  • Half of those with incomes under 2 ½ times poverty ($55,875 for a family of four) lacked  a regular source of care.
  • Half of people under 133 percent of poverty ($29,726 for a family of four) have used the emergency room to get a prescription written.
  • Just one out of 10 low-income adults over age 50 who lack insurance had been screened for colon cancer, as recommended. Half of those in the same income range with health coverage had gotten the screening.
  • Only 32 percent of low-income women without insurance between ages 40 and 64 had received a mammogram, compared to 66 percent of of low-income women with coverage.


The survey was conducted online between June 24 and July 5, 2011, by Knowledge Networks, among a representative sample of adults ages 19 to 64. The survey was completed by 2,134 people, including 977 low-income adults. The overall margin of error was +/- 3 percentage points.