A new report finds there are 47.3 million people in this country who don’t have health insurance – 660,000 in Alabama – and that’s a national tragedy. But they are a part of an even bigger problem. It now appears – based on new U.S. census data – that there are 32 million people who have insurance, but are still spending a major share of their income on medical care. These folks make up the underinsured in our society. Combine those numbers with the uninsured numbers and it means that in 2012 nearly 80 million Americans either have no insurance or don’t have enough. The study was done by Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit, and its findings shouldn’t come as big surprise.
In Alabama, there are about 580,000 who fall into this underinsured category, defined as spending 5 percent or more of their income on out-of-pocket expenses for health care while earning less than $47,100 a year for a family of four or spending 10 percent or more of their income if the family income was between $47,100 and $94,200. Add that to the 660,000 who are uninsured and you have 1.2 million, or nearly 30 percent of the people in Alabama, who are without insurance or do not have enough, according to the report. That’s slightly above the 29 percent figure for the nation. It was stated in the report:
Historically, states with high uninsured rates have had lower rates of job-based insurance and more restrictive Medicaid eligibility and often high rates of poverty, making it more difficult to expand coverage from state resources alone. To overcome these historic barriers, insurance reforms provide for federal subsidies to reduce premium costs and out-of-pocket medical costs for eligible low- and middle-income families who buy plans through the new state-based insurance marketplaces.
In my opinion, Alabama should participate in the federal offer to help expand Medicaid. By doing so, the underinsured population would be helped. Unfortunately, Alabama is one of the 24 states that has decided not to expand its Medicaid programs to 138 percent of poverty level. Regardless of how one feels about President Obama, it’s very difficult to justify not expanding Medicaid and providing preventive health care to those in Alabama who are currently depending on hospital emergency rooms for their health care needs.
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