News and Commentary

Tie to Employers Stresses Fragility Of Health Coverage

At some point in life, 1 out of 7 Americans goes without health insurance for a year, according the Institute of Medicine's recently released demographic study of the uninsured.

In "Coverage Matters: Insurance and Health Care," the IOM posits that the increased cost of health insurance and a slower economy will probably boost the number of uninsured Americans in the near future.

The report outlines who lacks insurance in the U.S., how coverage is gained and lost, and why so many people find themselves uninsured.

About two thirds of Americans receive health insurance through their employers or families, and many gain or lose coverage when they marry, divorce, or move to new jobs.

The report notes that increased health care costs and a slowing economy may prompt employers to pass more of the cost of insurance premiums on to employees, who may in turn decide they cannot afford it and opt out of coverage.

Employees pay about 14 percent of the cost of individual health insurance and 27 percent of family coverage, the IOM says. In addition, 13.6 million workers are not offered employer-sponsored coverage.

As a group, Hispanics are most likely to be uninsured. More than a third of Latinos in the U.S. under age 65 have no health coverage.

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