More Pennsylvanians Are Without Insurance and Health Care, Insurance Department Survey Shows
The commonwealth’s latest statewide survey on uninsured rates shows that more than one million Pennsylvanians lack health insurance coverage — an increase from a similar study in 2004, Insurance Commissioner Joel Ario said.
“Overall, the study showed that increases in uninsured numbers were seen in almost every category; including adults, children, certain ethnic groups and most geographic areas,” Ario said. “Adults are more likely than children to be uninsured, and this shows up in the fast-growing waiting list for our adultBasic program, which provides subsidized health coverage to adults who have been uninsured for at least six months.
“The waiting list stands at more than 183,000 individuals this week and is projected to grow to 282,000 by the end of June,” said Ario. “This compares to a projected enrollment of more than 41,000; meaning that the waiting list may soon be seven times the number of enrollments unless the General Assembly addresses the problem. Some people have been on the waiting list since November of 2006.
“Coverage through private health insurance dropped from 66 percent covered in 2004 to 62 percent in 2008. Some of this decline was made up by an increase from 14 to 18 percent in Pennsylvania residents who have health insurance through a state-sponsored program.
“While this survey was conducted before the recession became evident, even at that time, more than 75 percent of the uninsured ranked cost as the main reason for not having health insurance. Also, those without insurance are not accessing the routine care necessary to prevent or address health conditions before they become bigger problems.
“Additionally, the uninsured are a diverse population. Most uninsured adults are working, but either are not offered insurance or cannot afford the insurance that is offered to them. Others are temporarily uninsured because they’re between jobs. These numbers would be worse if not for public programs, but some also fall through the cracks of public programs.
“Survey results demonstrate the effectiveness of our Children’s Health Insurance Program, CHIP, with only 5 percent of children, up to age 18, uninsured compared to 12 percent of adults 19-64 years old. One reason our track record with children is better than with adults is that CHIP has substantial support from the federal government, while adultBasic does not.
“Our state’s uninsured percentage rate — at just over eight percent — continues to be better than the 15.8 percent national average, but the trends are heading in the wrong direction. The CHIP program illustrates how public-private collaborations can work, especially with state and federal dollars, and the Governor’s health reform proposals would apply those lessons to expanding the adultBasic program. We will continue to work with the General Assembly and the federal government to cover the uninsured.”
Ario noted that the federal government is currently considering an expansion of the SCHIP program, as well as targeted assistance to uninsured adults through increased support to state Medicaid programs and subsidies for individuals on COBRA (health insurance) coverage.
Specific findings of the survey:
- The survey found that more than 1 million (1,021,790) Pennsylvanians lack health insurance coverage. This is an increase from a 2004 study indicating that nearly 900,000 Pennsylvania residents were uninsured.
- Overall, the percentage of Pennsylvania residents that are uninsured rose from 7.5 percent in 2004 to 8.2 percent in 2008. Individuals in the 19-44 age bracket are the most likely to be uninsured.
- Adults lacking health insurance rose from 755,000 in 2004 to nearly 883,000 in 2008.
- The percentage of Pennsylvanians covered by private health insurance dropped from 66 percent in 2004 to 62 percent in 2008. However, when looking at individuals under age 65, more than 70 percent are covered by private health insurance. This is slightly above the national average of 68.9 percent.
- About 18 percent of Pennsylvania residents have health insurance through a state-sponsored program, an increase from 14 percent in 2004.
- The number of uninsured children increased from about 133,500 to approximately 138,500. However, more than 60 percent of eligible children are enrolled in the CHIP program and nearly all (83 percent) of the CHIP parents would recommend the program.
- Characteristics of those who are uninsured show that: nearly 18 percent have lacked coverage for more than 5 years; 62 percent, ages 19-64, are working; of those people who are working and uninsured, nearly 48 percent work for small employers of fewer than 50 people; 61 percent have not seen a doctor or health care provider for routine care during the last 12 months (this compares to 24 percent of those with coverage); only 6 percent have stayed in a hospital overnight during the last 12 months (this compares to 11 percent of insured Pennsylvanians).
The survey, conducted by the research group, Market Decisions, LLC, is a follow-up to the department’s original Health Insurance Status Survey from 2004. The survey provides information about health insurance coverage, demographic and employment characteristics and the financial barriers to health care for Pennsylvania residents. A random, digit-dial telephone survey interviewed over 20,000 households representing every county in the commonwealth and gathered information on nearly 50,000 Pennsylvanians, a sampling more than three times the population surveyed in 2004. The percentages reported for the entire survey sample have a margin of error of 0.7 percent statewide. Interviews were conducted between September 27, 2007 and May 15, 2008.
Results of the survey can be found at www.insurance.state.pa.us.