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Uninsured ranks grow despite wide-ranging ideas for solutions

There are currently more than 47 million Americans living without health insurance, among them 8.7 million children, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. If you think that's an unacceptable number, you're not alone.

The uninsured: Ideas for solutions

The Coalition for Affordable Health Coverage offers "Policy Solutions for the Uninsured," covering tax credits and deductions, Health Savings Accounts and high-risk pools.

The Commonwealth Fund examines "Uninsured in America: Problems and Possible Solutions" and has numerous publications about insurance coverage and the health care system.

The Heritage Foundation's health care policy archive examines issues including health care reform, insurance coverage for children and problems with Medicare.

The Kaiser Family Foundation offers extensive studies of health coverage and the uninsured.

The uninsured problem is pervasive and building. Did you know that:

  • The number of insured has generally climbed steadily, from 15.9 percent in 1994 to 17.9 percent in 2006, according to the Employee Benefit Research Group (EBRI).
  • Racial and ethnic minority groups carry the burden of lack of insurance. While non-Hispanic Whites constitute nearly two-thirds of the population, they account for under one-half of the uninsured population, according to EBRI.
  • Texas has the highest percentage of uninsured (24.1 percent). The rates for Minnesota, Hawaii, Iowa, Wisconsin and Maine are lower than the rates of the other 45 states and the District of Columbia, according to the Census Bureau.


What can be done?

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is hoping to make an impact with its Covering the Uninsured Web site and annual public-awareness campaigns that encourage people to organize working groups of community and business leaders to address the problems of the uninsured and demand solutions from elected officials.

In addition, America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), an industry trade group of health insurers, has put forth a specific proposal for supplying individual health insurance for those who can't buy group health plans at work.

AHIP's "Individual Market Guarantee Access Proposal" would work this way: If you're denied an individual health plan because of pre-existing medical conditions, the health insurer would sell you a guarantee-issue policy with premiums capped at 1.5 times standard market rates. However, for the very sick whose claims costs are expected to be more than twice the statewide average, the health insurer would refer you to a state-run Guarantee Access Plan. More details of AHIP's proposal are available online.

Your coverage options

If you're currently uninsured, CoveringTheUninsured.org offers state-specific guides for those looking for coverage. Each guide contains a number of possible routes to securing health coverage.

The National Association of Health Underwriters has a detailed state-by-state Health Care Options Database, with information on options and state laws pertaining to employer-based coverage, individual policies, high-risk pools, income requirements for Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Pool (SCHIP).

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