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Report Finds Millions of Working Americans Have No Health Insurance

APRIL 27, 2005 -- More than 20 million working Americans do not have health care coverage, leaving them unable to see a doctor when they need one and in poorer health than Americans who have health care insurance, according to a new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The study, released Wednesday during a kickoff event for "Cover the Uninsured Week" (May 1–8), found the problem is pervasive in every state. Those with the highest rates of uninsured residents among employed adults include Texas (27 percent), New Mexico (23 percent), and Florida (22 percent). States with the lowest rates of uninsured working Americans include Minnesota (7 percent) and Hawaii (9 percent).

Nationally, 41 percent of uninsured adults report being unable to see a doctor when they needed one over the past year because they could not afford to do so, compared to just nine percent of adults who have health care coverage.

"The cost of health care is far outstripping the growth in wages for most Americans," said Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and chief executive officer of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "Something's got to give."

Speakers at Wednesday's event implored lawmakers to take action now to provide health care coverage to the 45 million Americans, both employed and unemployed, who do not have it.

"I have always thought this is far and away the most important issue," said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., adding Congress must "look at creative ways to start filling in the gap."

Wyden, along with Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, helped create a nonpartisan 14-member citizens group charged with developing innovative ways to overhaul the nation's $1.8 trillion health care system.

Public involvement and political accountability will be critical to finding ways to cover the uninsured, Wyden said. "No one is minimizing how difficult this is."

Howard Schultz, chairman of the Starbucks Coffee chain, said providing health care coverage is a critical business issue. But companies like his that provide health care insurance for their workers have had to pay more to do so to help pay the health care costs of the uninsured, he said.

"In the last 12 months, we have paid more for employee health insurance than we do to buy the raw materials for our company," Schultz said. "If we can't sustain this benefit then no company in America is going to do it."

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