Nearly half of all US working-age adults—about 84 million people—were uninsured or had too little health coverage to protect them from high out-of-pocket medical costs last year, according to a new survey.
The Commonwealth Fund 2012 Biennial Health Insurance Survey also reported that the number of working-age adults who didn’t see a physician or get a prescription filled because the cost was too high increased by 27% over the last decade, bringing the figure to 80 million in 2012.
In addition, 75 million working-age adults had trouble paying their medical bills or were paying them over time last year, a 29% increase since 2005. An estimated 18% of adults were pursued by a collections agency and 16% had to make lifestyle changes because of medical bills.
Survey findings showed that about three-fourths of low-income, working-age adults (annual income less than $14 856 for individuals or $30 657 for a family of 4)—40 million people—were uninsured or underinsured last year. Of adults with moderate incomes—from $14 856 to $27 925 for individuals and $30 657 to $57 625 for a family of 4—59%, or 21 million people, were uninsured or underinsured.
The survey’s bright spot showed that the proportion of young adults aged 19 to 25 years without health insurance at some point during the year decreased from 48% in 2010 to 41% in 2012. The report’s authors said the reversal likely is due to the Affordable Care Act provision that allows young adults to stay on their parents’ health plan until age 26 years.
When state health exchanges established under the law go into effect in 2014, the report estimated that nearly 48 million adults who were uninsured and nearly 26 million who were underinsured at any time last year will be eligible for subsidized coverage or Medicaid, although coverage is limited to legal US residents.
“It will be critical to continue to monitor the effects of the law as the major provisions go into effect in 2014 and beyond to ensure it achieves its goal of near-universal, comprehensive health insurance,” the report’s lead author, Sara Collins, PhD, a Commonwealth Fund vice president, said in a statement.