Uninsured U.S. citizens often can’t afford it

By Tom Nordlie • Published: August 26th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Try going without health insurance and you’re rolling the dice.

With no coverage, a serious injury or illness can leave you deeply in debt.

Nonetheless, between 2000 and 2007, the number of uninsured U-S residents under age sixty-five increased from forty-four-million to fifty-four-million.

Experts often assume that income determines who can afford coverage.

But statistics suggest that idea is flawed.

Millions of adults with incomes below the federal poverty level buy private health insurance. And millions ABOVE the poverty line remain uninsured.

So what’s going on?

A study published in the journal Health Affairs indicates that the ability to buy private health insurance stems from a different factor… net worth.

That’s a figure calculated by adding up the assets family members have, then subtracting the debts they owe.

In the study, researchers looked at a nationally representative sample of twenty-four-thousand families.

The results showed that about seventy percent of them were eligible to obtain health insurance through an employer.

For the rest, privately obtained coverage was available.

But consider this… the families that purchased private coverage had median net worth thirty-five times greater than that of families without insurance.

That’s a big difference.

The results show that families going without health insurance aren’t necessarily doing so because they’re miserly.

They may be cutting corners because they don’t have any choice.

The results also point out the importance of employer-provided health insurance.

So if you’ve got it, count your blessings.

And if not, count your pennies… you may need them.