Here are six reasons from Families USA in Washington, DC, why health insurance matters:
1. The uninsured are less likely to have a usual source of care outside the emergency department. They are up to four times less likely to have a regular source of care than the insured. Uninsured children are nearly eight times as likely to not have a regular source of care as insured children. Two-thirds of all care delivered to uninsured Americans is delivered by hospitals.
2. The uninsured often go without screenings and preventive care. Uninsured adults are more than 30% less likely than insured adults to have had a checkup in the past year. They also are more likely to go without diabetes management. Long-term uninsured adults are three to four times more likely than insured adults to go without preventive services such as breast cancer or hypertension screening. Uninsured adults are likely to be diagnosed with a disease at a later stage and once diagnosed, the uninsured tend to receive less therapeutic care (drugs or surgical interventions) than the insured.
3. The uninsured often delay or forgo needed medical care. Uninsured adults are more likely than insured adults to put off or delay seeking medical care (39% to 10%). Nearly 70% of uninsured adults in poor health and nearly 50% of uninsured adults in fair health said they were unable to see a doctor in the past year when they needed to because of high cost of care. Uninsured people with chronic health conditions receive less care than their insured counterparts.
4. The uninsured are often subject to avoidable hospital stays. The rate of unnecessary hospital stays for uninsured adults more than doubled from 1980 to 1998. For uninsured people in 1998, an estimated 11.6% of hospital stays could have been avoided if people had received treatment earlier. The average cost of an unnecessary hospitalization for an uninsured adult was $3,300 in 2002.
5. Uninsured Americans are sicker and die earlier than those who have insurance. Families USA says every year, the deaths of 18,000 people between 25 and 64 can be attributed to a lack of insurance coverage, making uninsurance the sixth leading cause of death, ahead of HIV/AIDS and diabetes. The Institute of Medicine has concluded that uninsured adults are 25% more likely to die prematurely than adults with private health coverage. Uninsured patients are three times more likely to die in the hospital than insured patients. When admitted, uninsured patients are more likely to receive fewer services and to experience second-rate care than insured patients. And when hospitalized, uninsured patients are likely to be in worse condition than insured patients. Uninsured adults have a greater chance of experiencing a major health decline than insured adults.
6. Medical care is more costly for the uninsured, and costs are higher for the American health system. Uninsured Americans received approximately $35 billion in uncompensated care in 2001. The uninsured often are charged more for health services than people with insurance. Major insurers, including Medicare and Medicaid, negotiate big discounts with hospitals and other providers, who compensate by raising prices for the uninsured. While 51% of uninsured adults say health insurance is a high priority in their personal budgets, 40% of all uninsured people say they would have to cut back on necessities such as food, rent, and utility bills to be able to buy health insurance. Nearly 40% of uninsured adults reported problems paying medical bills. When the uninsured can no longer avoid obtaining care from professional health care providers, they borrow money to pay costs up front, work more than one job, charge credit cards for large health care bills that will take years to repay, or eventually file for bankruptcy. Families USA asserts that when the uninsured rely on emergency instead of preventive care, access is limited for all Americans, productivity is reduced, and costs are added to the health care system.