From Nurse week:
MORE GO WITHOUT HEALTH INSURANCE FOR SHORT PERIODS
Copyright 2003 P.G. Publishing Co.
March 6, 2003 Thursday SOONER EDITION
Nearly 75 million Americans under the age of 65 -- nearly one-third of the total -- were uninsured for at least one month during 2001-02.
In Pennsylvania, which traditionally has had one of the lower rates of uninsured residents, 2.4 million people, or 23.4 percent of the population, were without insurance for a time during that same period.
The numbers released yesterday by the Washington, D.C., consumer group Families USA give a better sense of just how many Americans deal with the loss of health insurance, said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA.
Annual reports from the U.S. Census Bureau, by contrast, gauge how many people were uninsured throughout the previous year, Pollack said.
The most recent of these reports was issued in September and put the national uninsured number for 2001 at 41.2 million, or 14.6 percent of the population. In Pennsylvania, the uninsured number was 1.1 million or 9.2 percent of the state.
"Now that almost one out of three non-elderly Americans experience significant periods without health insurance, the uninsured problem is no longer simply an issue of altruism about other people," Pollack said. "Now it's one of self-interest for all of us."
Pollack said that of the 74.7 million Americans under 65 who were temporarily uninsured during the two-year period, most lacked health insurance for more than six months.
The Families USA report was released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in advance of next week's Cover the Uninsured Week events across the country.
Locally, Mayor Tom Murphy and Allegheny County Chief Executive Jim Roddey are scheduled to participate in a town hall meeting Monday at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. Throughout the week, events will be held at local colleges, hospitals and health centers.
More people are going without insurance for a variety of factors, Pollack said. Rising health-care costs and a soft labor market mean that more employers are passing on the costs of health care to their employees. Unemployment is up as well and most non-elderly people rely on employer coverage.
The newest factor is that state fiscal crises are causing cutbacks in Medicaid programs, which have served as key safety nets for the uninsured, Pollack said.
A Web site -- http://covertheuninsuredweek.org
-- includes more information. Click on the "Events Near You" tab.