On Tuesday, September 13, the Census Bureau released some shocking figures reflecting the current standard of living in the United States. Approximately 46.2 million people in this country are poor, and 49.9 million have no heath insurance coverage whatsoever.
The national poverty rate stands at 15.1 percent, up from 14.3 percent in 2010. That’s the highest level since 1982. Mississippi has the deepest poverty level at 22.7 percent; New Hampshire the lightest at 6.6 percent.
Unemployment is currently hovering around 9.1 percent and more than 6 million Americans have been without a job for more than 26 weeks. These people have become more dependent on friends, family, their neighbors, and their communities by the day.
The number of Americans living without health insurance has climbed from 16.1 percent to 16.3 percent. It’s important to realize that individuals who might have had some resources to meet an unexpected medical crisis even without coverage no longer have that cushion.
Even in the face of health care reform, the recession has deepened the health care crisis. People cannot afford treatment and they cannot afford the insurance coverage that might give them access to more preventive, emergency, and needs-specific medical care.
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Decline of Job-Related Health Insurance Benefits
Perhaps the most frightening statistic involves employment-based health insurance benefits — the long-standing foundation of insurance coverage for working people. The number of people who have health coverage as a job benefit has dropped a shocking 55 percent, a devastating consequence of the unemployment crisis, and a potentially crippling burden on cash-strapped families.
The health care reforms scheduled to take effect in 2014 will expand Medicaid coverage to the poor while extending subsidies to middle-income Americans to assist them in purchasing private health coverage. The theory is that these measures will make health care affordable to those people who don’t have employer-based health benefits.
The problem, however, is that those changes are a year and a half — or more — away. In between there will be a presidential election, and there is every good chance that a Republican will gain office. Many are already running on a platform of dismantling what is known in political rhetoric as “Obama Care.” What effect that will have on Americans whose health insurance and income statuses are already so fragile is unclear, but the portents are ominous.
Does Cheap Health Insurance Even Exist?
Is cheap health insurance still a possibility for you and your family? The bottom line is you cannot know if you don’t ask an insurance professional and explore your options. Is it risky to go without health insurance coverage in this economy? Yes. — Make that a resounding yes. — More than 60 percent of personal bankruptcy filings in the United States are directly tied to medical debt.
If you are without health insurance, remember that research is cheap — free, in fact, if you use computers at your local community center or public library. Learn about the new types of inexpensive medical insurance products being developed to address this frightening gap. Even a discount card could make a difference in your family budget. And avail yourself of our online health insurance rate quote engine to get some real numbers to work with.
Many Americans are completely priced out of maintaining a health care insurance umbrella, but at least find out where you stand. A lot can happen in the next year and a half before federal reforms will take effect. The question may not be, “Can I afford health insurance?” but rather, “Can I afford to risk not having health insurance?”