Posted by | December 28, 2010 20:54 | Filed under: Top Stories

By Yashwanth Manjunath

A troubling new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation reveals that the number of Americans without health insurance is now over 50 million. The report also found that the number of Americans without any health care coverage grew by more than four million in 2009, leaving almost one-fifth of non-elderly people uninsured. Among those between 19 and 29 years old, nearly one-third lack coverage. This recent epidemic of lost health care coverage is directly related to the employer-based health care system that still exists here in the United States. As individuals and families continue to lose their jobs during the Great Recession, they continue to lose their health coverage.

Those most vulnerable to losing their health care coverage are people in the 55-64 age range; individuals old enough to experience difficult and expensive health issues, but too young to qualify for Medicare. Once those in the 55-64 age group lose their health coverage it is extremely difficult for them to receive new benefits in the individual market due to the prohibitive cost, and tough for them to find a new job that provides health coverage because of a combination of lack of job opportunities and employers unwilling to provide coverage for older employees.

The implications of a growing number of Americans without health care coverage are deadly. According to a recent study conducted by Harvard University 45,000 Americans die every year solely due to lack of health coverage. The uninsured are also 40% more likely to die than those with insurance, when factoring similar health histories.

Obama and the Democrats health care reform efforts deal with the problem of lack of coverage to an extent. However, even if health care reform survives Republican repeal efforts and is fully implemented it will still leave 6% of the country uninsured, or roughly 20 million people. It could not be more clear that more health care reforms will be needed down the road to supplement what has already been done.

Maybe the real purpose of “Obamacare” is to show how inadequate employer-based private health insurance is, and that it is a system beyond repair. Perhaps the cost and lack of coverage problems become so severe that there will eventually be the political will for a universal single-payer system here in the United States, something similar to what every other industrialized country in the world has.

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