New Study: 25 Million U.S. Adults Are Underinsured

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<p>The number of underinsured U.S. adults--people who have health coverage that does not adequately protect them from high medical expenses--has risen dramatically. A new Commonwealth Fund study published today as a <em>Health Affairs</em> Web Exclusive finds that as of 2007, there were an estimated 25 million underinsured adults in the U.S., 60 percent more than the 16 million underinsured in 2003.<br /><br />Most of this growth came from rising uninsured rates among middle- and higher-income families, according to the article, <a href="/publications/in-the-literature/2008/jun/how-many-are-underinsured--trends-among-u-s--adults--2003-and-2007
">How Many Are Underinsured? Trends Among U.S. Adults, 2003 and 2007</a> by the Fund's Cathy Schoen, Sara R. Collins, Jennifer L. Kriss, and Michelle M. Doty. While low-income people remain the most likely to be underinsured or uninsured, underinsured rates nearly tripled since 2003 for adults with incomes at or above 200 percent of the federal poverty level (annual family income of $40,000 or more).<br /><br />Underinsured people, even though they have coverage all year, report access problems and financial stress at rates similar to those of the uninsured. For example, about half of both the underinsured and uninsured had difficulty paying medical care bills, were contacted by collection agencies for unpaid bills, or changed their way of life to pay medical bills. <br /><br />The study was based on the Fund's 2007 Biennial Health Insurance Survey. Following the method used in the 2003 baseline study, adults ages 19 to 64 were classified as underinsured if they were insured all year yet spent 10 percent or more of their income (or 5 percent if low-income) on out-of-pocket medical expenses, or if they had per-person deductibles that equaled 5 percent or more of their income.</p>