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The Uninsured

"I've had MS for ten years. And my kind is like progressive. So I just get worse. I really can't do anything. I don't leave my house. You know, it's hard for me to get out. There's steps in the back. My kids, they're young and they really help me. But it's hard for them. Noelle, she turned two when they said I had MS."- Alicia Facchino

Alicia suffers from Multiple Sclerosis and is uninsured. She has two children (ages 10 & 12) who take care of her at home. She is confined to a wheelchair and can't afford home care.

44 million Americans are uninsured, and eight out of ten of these are workers or their dependents. Why is being uninsured a problem?

About 44 million people in this country have no health insurance, and another 38 million have inadequate health insurance. This means that nearly one-third of Americans face each day without the security of knowing that, if and when they need it, medical care is available to them and their families.

Having no health insurance also often means that people will postpone necessary care and forego preventive care - such as childhood immunizations and routine check-ups-completely. Because the uninsured usually have no regular doctor and limited access to prescription medications, they are more likely to be hospitalized for health conditions that could have been avoided.

Delaying care for fear of medical bills is a downward spiral that leads to ultimately higher health care costs for all of us. More than one third of uninsured adults reported they have problems paying their bills, which helps explain why many of the uninsured don't seek out the care they need until the last minute. But when an uninsured person is in crisis and cannot pay, that burden falls upon the insured population, the hospitals, the doctors and the government. And these billions of dollars of "uncompensated care" drive up health insurance premiums for everyone.

"The people who are most at risk today are those who have no health insurance at all. They're at risk of not getting regular care when they need it. They're at risk of not catching real problems before they get serious enough to not be treatable. They're at risk of not getting the best treatment when they actually do get sick. And they're at tremendous financial risk. They could lose everything that they've saved in their lives because of some even fairly minor health problem."

--Sherry Glied, PhD, Associate Professor of Public Health, Columbia University

More on Sherry Glied's interview

More comments about the uninsured and related topics by our experts.

"But for the 40 million uninsured, we have brutal rationing by price and their income. And I sometimes resent politicians or smug economists who say, "We can avoid rationing through the market, through the price system." That is so patently false, you would box the ear of a freshman in Congress for ever saying that, and here, you have grown-up politicians saying it. Markets ration. They ration by price and income. If you're a waitress, uninsured, and your child has an ear ache and you can not afford to go to a doctor, you have been rationed out of the system. And I'm appalled that there are politicians who can not understand this." -- Uwe Reinhardt, PhD, Professor of Political Economy, Princeton University

More on Uwe Reinhardt's interview

More comments about the uninsured and related topics by our experts.

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