Testimony: Need for Universal Health Coverage More Urgent Than Ever

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<p>Noting the widening health insurance gaps in America and the devastating health and economic consequences for individual families and the nation as a whole, The Commonwealth Fund's Sara Collins, Ph.D., told a House Ways and Means subcommittee today that "it is essential on both moral and economic grounds that the United States move forward to guarantee affordable, comprehensive, and continuous health insurance for everyone."<br><br>In her <a href="/cnlib/pub/enews_clickthrough.htm?enews_item_id=30654&return_url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ecommonwealthfund%2Eorg%2Fpublications%2Fpublications%5Fshow%2Ehtm%3Fdoc%5Fid%3D583404%26%23doc583404">invited testimony at a hearing</a> held by the Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, Collins, who directs the Fund's Future of Health Insurance program, said the most gaping hole in coverage is for people under age 65 who lack access to an employer-based health plan and yet are ineligible for public coverage. Much of the blame goes to rising health care costs and premiums, which make it difficult for many firms, particularly small ones, to continue offering affordable health insurance to their employees.<br><br>The individual insurance market--where just 6 percent of the under-65 population buys coverage--has proven to be an inadequate substitute, Collins said. Individual plans charge premiums that are too high for many people to afford, and they often will not enroll people with preexisting health problems.<br><br>Short of implementing universal coverage, Collins discussed several policies that would help fill the gaps in the existing insurance system, such as building on public and private group insurance to extend coverage to vulnerable groups, like young adults, low- and moderate-income families, and disabled people who are waiting to enroll in Medicare.</p>