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Deductibles and number of uninsured rising Posted: June 4th, 2010

By Lisa Tortorello

Lisa Tortorello has been a Director of Public Relations and Marketing within a large East Coast health care system for more than 10 years. She has an associate's degree in Liberal Arts and a bachelor's degree in Public Communication.

The economic domino effect of one industry's troubles causing the struggle or collapse of another has been a common scenario since the start of our country's current recession in December 2007. Many Americans continue to struggle to put food on the family table, and our economy continues to fight feverishly to make strides against an unemployment rate that has settled in the high end of nine percent.

Although the economy did experience real growth in the second half of 2009, many people still face challenges--both those who are currently employed and those who are presently unemployed--when it comes to health insurance coverage.

In a recent study published by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), the percentage of individuals under age 65 without health insurance coverage provided by an employer has grown during the recession. For those who still have employment-based medical coverage, deductibles and co-payments have increased, pulling more money from the already shrinking American wallet.

The EBRI study revealed the following in regards to the 61.1 percent of the population with employment-based benefits:

  • The percentage of those covered dropped from 61.3 percent in May 2007 to 58.2 percent in July 2009.
  • The uninsured rate jumped more than four points from 12.3 percent in May 2007 to 16.4 percent in July 2009.
  • Between December 2007 and May 2008, the number of employees with health insurance coverage in their own name fell from 60.4 percent to 56.8 percent. This continued to decline through July, reaching a low of 55.9 percent.

Deductibles and co-payments for physician visits and prescriptions have also been rising according to the EBRI study. The percentage of employees with a deductible of at least $500, for employee-only coverage in a preferred provider organization (PPO), increased from 14 percent in 2000 to 52 percent in 2009.

What about the millions of people seeking health insurance who are not covered by an employer? The EBRI reports that 15 percent are covered by Medicaid or state-run Children's Health Insurance Programs (CHIP), while 6.3 percent are purchasing coverage directly from the insurer, and about 3 percent are covered by Medicare or Tricare/CHAMPVA.

Perhaps we can assume that cheap medical insurance, or even free health insurance, may be difficult to come by in the face of such an economy. Staying informed is our best defense and has the potential to keep our checkbooks feeling full.