Posted on Jan 03, 2011 by Sergio Ulloa
The economic recession in the United States is taking its toll on the healthcare of an increasing number of American citizens according to a report by the Kaiser Foundation released in December 2010.
The study found that the number of nonelderly Americans - people under 65 years of age - without health insurance in the USA rose to 50 million in 2009. This reflected an increase of 4.3 million people suffering from the absence of any form of private healthcare cover with consequential risks to general health and illness.
While most American citizens over the age of 65 are covered by the US government social insurance programme Medicare and the very poorest elements of US society covered by the means tested health scheme Medicaid, nonelderly Americans are becoming increasingly vulnerable to health related ailments as the recession impacts on employment levels and the loss of corporate healthcare insurance.
The Kaiser Foundation report titled 'The Uninsured: A Primer' has highlighted the affect of more Americans becoming unemployed with medical treatment needing to be paid out-of-pocket from savings or, where this is not possible, medical treatment being foregone.
While the US government-run Medicare, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provide health protection for the elderly, young and the very poorest elements of American society, the increase in the number of people outside current state funded healthcare coverage is causing serious concern. The report estimates that 19 percent of nonelderly Americans were uninsured in 2009 covering all ages, ethnicities and income groups in the country; 33 percent of the 19 to 29 age group carried no health insurance. The report highlighted that low income groups were faced with heightened risks of being uninsured, particularly those people just above the defined poverty level.
The report found that as more Americans become uninsured a steep decline in the healthcare services provided has occurred, with uninsured people in the US being less likely to seek basic medical care, including preventive treatment. This is leading to more serious health issues which ultimately result in hospitalization. In the event of an uninsured American needing to seek medical treatment or healthcare services, the financial burden can lead to high medical debts placing further pressures on a person's state of health. The study found that 27 percent of uninsured adults in the US had to use their personal savings to pay for private medical bills.
The American Journal of Public Health reported an alarming static in 2009, with 45,000 Americans dying annually due to the lack of healthcare coverage. The study which was conducted by Harvard University found uninsured Americans are 40 percent more likely to die compared to their American counterparts with insurance.
Some of the issues identified will be improved by the implementation of the President Obama-driven Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
which was enacted on the 23rd March 2010 . Under this US healthcare reform package, Medicaid will be expanded in 2014 to reach more Americans under the age of 65 and compel those individuals with the ability to fund their own healthcare insurance to do so. As an interim measure, some reforms to previous healthcare arrangements were brought in to force on the 21st September 2010, including rebates for prescription drugs, new rules being applied to insurance companies and tax credits for small firms introducing health insurance schemes for employees.
The rapid increase in the number of American citizens without healthcare coverage in recent years is fundamentally down to tough economic conditions, which has driven up unemployment and contributed to a decline in employer-sponsored health coverage. Health insurance through an employer in the US made up approximately half the private healthcare coverage in the country, but as companies shed jobs, many Americans have lost full time employment and the resultant alternative of part-time or casual employment has not offered continuation of company health insurance schemes.
The publishers of The Uninsured: A Primer, the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, was established in 1991 in Washington DC. Its primary role is to provide information on healthcare coverage and access for the low-income demographics of the United States, with particular focus on Medicaid's role and coverage of the uninsured members of society in the country. The recent study has focused attention on the sharp increase in the number of Americans without any form of healthcare coverage in the country, driven by the tough economic conditions and growing unemployment levels.
The rold of the Medicaid programme is to help Americans who are unable to meet medical care bills through a US government sponsored health insurance scheme, but Medicaid is only available to people with limited income or specific age criteria.
Although reforms of the US healthcare system is underway, many American are left in a precarious situation regarding medical treatment which is likely to get worse if economic conditions do not improve in the near future. Even if employment levels improve, it is thought likely that employers may withhold health benefits until the underlying financial conditions stabilize in the USA, meaning more Americans will need to rely of the reform of the US healthcare system to provide them with some form of healthcare provision.
If an American person is uninsured for healthcare treatment but receives treatment for which they are unable to pay in full, costs will be paid through resources from federal, state and private funds. The US government will pay the majority of the medical costs, which is crucial to support the US hospital and clinic safety net. Although the US healthcare reform is set to improve healthcare coverage for a significant proportion of American citizens, it is predicted the improvements will still leave 23 million people in the country without affordable health coverage by 2019. This means that the current healthcare financing system provided by the US government will continue to provide a pivotal role for uninsured Americans.