89 million people medically uninsured during 2004 -- 2007

August 9, 2012

Eighty-nine million Americans were without health insurance for at least one month during the period from 2004 to 2007, and 23 million lost coverage more than once during that time, according to researchers at Penn State and Harvard University.

"These findings call attention to the continuing instability and of health insurance in our country," said Pamela Farley Short, professor of and administration, Penn State. "With more than a third of all Americans under age 65 being uninsured at some point in a four-year period, it's easy to see that the problem of being uninsured is a big one that affects lots of people."

To do their analysis, the researchers used data from the U.S. 's Survey of Income and Program Participation, which collects information from the same individualsevery four months over a four-year period. The team examined changes in among people ages 4 to 64 from 2004 to 2007, which is the most recent period for which four-year data are available.

The researchers found that, of the 89 million people who were uninsured during the period from 2004 to 2007, 12 million were continually uninsured; 11 million gained at some point; 11.5 lost coverage; 14 million experienced a single gap in coverage; and 6 million had a temporary spell of coverage, but were otherwise uninsured. Inaddition, 23 million people lost health insurance more than once during thefour-year period.

The results of the analysis appeared online in a recent issue of Medical Care Research and Review.

"There is that people who are uninsured use fewer services than people who have insurance;they postpone prevention and ignore serious problems because they don't feel they can afford the care," Short said. "As a result, some even die for lack of insurance."

But not only do people with gaps in their coverage suffer; those who remain insured and pay premiums suffer as well.

"When people get caught without health insurance, hospitals and emergency rooms are still required to care for them," Short said. "Someone has to pay for those services."

According to the survey, low-income people are particularly susceptible to periodic losses of health insurance coverage. The survey revealed that a little over 64 percent of adults and nearly 60 percent of children who are below 200 percent of the federal poverty level -- equivalent to $46,100/year for a family of four -- were uninsured for at least one month during the four-year period.

"Even though low-income people are disproportionately affected by gaps in , none of us is really safe," Short said. "Any one of us could be afflicted with a serious health problem that could cause us to lose our jobs and our access to employment-based insurance, which is how most of us get insurance."

In addition to losing or changing jobs, gaps in insurance coverage can occur when people divorce and when children age out of their parents' plans or public insurance programs.

"We all have a stake in thisproblem of providing everyone with continuing access to affordable insurance," Short said. "Promoting stability and minimizing gaps should be high priorities as federal and state officials proceed with the implementation of national health care reforms."

The Commonwealth Fund supported this work.

Deborah Graefe, research associate at Penn State; Katherine Swartz, professor of health policy and economics at Harvard University; and Namrata Uberoi, graduate student in health policy and administration at Penn State, also were involved with the research.

Explore further: Many adults with diabetes have no insurance coverage

Related Stories

Many adults with diabetes have no insurance coverage

July 23, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Approximately two million adults under the age of 65 years with diabetes have no health insurance, according to research published online July 11 in Diabetes Care.

Recommended for you

'Man flu' may be real

December 11, 2017
The much-debated phenomenon of "man flu" may have some basis in fact, suggests an article published in the Christmas issue of The BMJ.

Full moon linked to increased risk of fatal motorcycle crashes

December 11, 2017
The full moon is associated with an increased risk of fatal motorcycle crashes in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, finds a study in the Christmas issue of The BMJ.

Social media trends can predict tipping points in vaccine scares

December 11, 2017
Analyzing trends on Twitter and Google can help predict vaccine scares that can lead to disease outbreaks, according to a study from the University of Waterloo.

Study suggests being proud may protect against falls in older people

December 11, 2017
Contrary to the old saying "pride comes before a fall", the opposite appears to be true, according to a study published in the Christmas issue of The BMJ.

Peppa Pig may encourage inappropriate use of primary care services

December 11, 2017
Exposure to the children's television series Peppa Pig may be contributing to unrealistic expectations of primary care and encouraging inappropriate use of services, suggests a doctor in the Christmas issue of The BMJ.

Women's sexual orientation linked to (un)happiness about birth

December 11, 2017
Unhappiness about a pregnancy or birth has been associated with negative health outcomes for mothers and babies. Yet, unhappiness about a pregnancy or birth has been understudied, particularly among sexual minority (non-heterosexual) ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.