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Characteristics of the Long-Term Insured

By July 17, 2014Commentary

An Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Statistical Brief characterizes those persons who were uninsured during the period 2008-2011.   (AHRQ Brief)   The Brief is based on MEPS survey data.  It is generally the perception that the uninsured are mostly young and healthy persons who don’t see the need for insurance or the working poor who don’t qualify, or don’t realize they qualify for Medicaid, and who can’t afford private coverage.  About 20.4 million people or 7.6% of population under 65, were uninsured during the entire period of 2008 to 2011.  For comparison, about 84.5 million people or around a third of that non-elderly population, were uninsured for at least one month during 2010-2011.  So the long-term uninsured are only a fraction of those who lack insurance for a short time, often because they are between jobs or have another life event.  Children are the least likely to be uninsured for the entire four-year study period, with only 2.3% lacking coverage.  Interestingly, people who reported being in good or excellent health were the least likely to be without health insurance, while 8.8% of those who said they were in poor or fair health had no health coverage for the whole four years.  Hispanics had very high rates of uninsurance, with 17.4% lacking insurance during the study term, and they also had high rates of uninsurance for at least part of the period.  People considered poor represent 16.8% of the under-65 population but almost 30% of those uninsured for the whole four-year time.  The Brief supports the notion that it is the young and the low-income adults who most often don’t have a health plan.  Unfortunately, the Brief does not give us the intersection of various factors, but one suspects the young without insurance are relatively healthy and it is the poor lacking coverage who report being in the lesser levels of health.  Once reform has been in place for a good two years, it will be interesting to see who is still uninsured.  I would guess it will continue to largely be the younger, healthier population and that the low-income groups will have garnered coverage.

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