Real Numbers: The Uninsured: Myths and Realities

Real Numbers

Lynne Page Snyder

The Uninsured: Myths and Realities

Much of what Americans think they know about people without health insurance is wrong. National polling data and market research reveal that the popular wisdom is that the number of uninsured people is small, includes largely healthy young adults who volutarily forego coverage or are unemployed, that recent immigrants account for much of the increase in the number, and that the uninsured manage somehow to get the medical care that they need. Peer-reviewed findings from health services research, economics, and the clinical literature paint a markedly different picture: The United States has a longstanding, sizable, and growing uninsured population of about 40 million people, roughly one out of every seven Americans, and being uninsured can have serious medical and economic consequences, not only for individuals but for their families as well.

The uninsured are less than half as likely to receive needed care for a serious medical condition. They have fewer visits annually and are more than three times as likely to lack a regular source of medical care as are those with either private or public health insurance. Uninsured persons receive fewer preventive services and less care for chronic conditions than do the insured.