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Moderate Earners Increasingly Lack Health Coverage

April 26, 2006|Nick Timiraos | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The number of uninsured adults who earn between $20,000 and $40,000 annually is rising, according to a study released today -- suggesting that fewer employers are providing healthcare coverage.

That study, along with one that says the uninsured are likely to seek treatment only when they become seriously ill, coincides with a national campaign, Cover the Uninsured, to make healthcare coverage a top legislative priority.

Research by the Commonwealth Fund, a nonpartisan New York-based foundation that examines healthcare issues, found that the percentage of moderate-income Americans who were without insurance for at least part of the year had jumped sharply over four years -- from 28% in 2001 to 41% in 2005.

"It's a cause for concern that this problem is obviously spreading into more moderate-income households," said Sara Collins, the study's lead author. "It's reflective of the fact that more employers are not offering coverage."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday April 27, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 35 words Type of Material: Correction
Health insurance: An article in Wednesday's Section A said a study by the Commonwealth Fund estimated that 48 million Americans lacked healthcare coverage. The figure referred to adults in the United States, not just citizens.

The study estimates that 48 million Americans lack health insurance. Of those, two-thirds are in families in which at least one person works full time, the study says.

"What those numbers do is cry out for public policymakers to take this challenge very seriously," said Gail Shearer, health policy director at Consumers Union.

Dr. Fernando Guerra, who directs the public health department in San Antonio, described the costs incurred by a lack of insurance. In an interview, he told of treating a staph infection in a 4-month-old whose mother had postponed treatment because she had no insurance.

"If the mother had been able to bring the child for treatment, it could have been resolved very quickly" for about $150, he said. Instead, surgery to drain the infant's thigh cost nearly five times as much.

The study found that 60% of uninsured adults with chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, forgo medication to save money and that 20% of working adults are paying off medical debt, often exceeding $2,000.

The study surveyed 4,350 adults by telephone between August 2005 and January 2006.

A similar report released today warned that uninsured Americans were four times more likely than those with insurance to avoid seeing a doctor when they needed treatment.

The study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a Princeton, N.J., philanthropy specializing in healthcare issues, found that 23% of uninsured adults said their health was "fair" or "poor," compared with 12% of those with insurance.

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