Currently, 46 million people or nearly one in five non-elderly adults and children lack health insurance in the United States, an increase of 6 million since 2000. The recent rise in uninsurance has been attributed to a number of factors, including rising health care costs, the economic downturn, an erosion of employer-based insurance, and public program cutbacks. The high cost of health insurance matters for uninsured non-elderly adults and children, whether old or young, healthy or disabled, with high incomes or well below the poverty line. Further, the importance of high costs as a reason for being uninsured has risen rapidly, growing steadily for both non-elderly adults and children.
Although cost is an important issue for all population subgroups studied, cost concerns are most prevalent among Hispanic individuals, non-citizens, and those likely to face the highest costs for coverage in the non-group market-the near-elderly and disabled adults. There are real health consequences to being uninsured. The uninsured visit the doctor less, use more emergency room care, and are more likely to be hospitalized for chronic conditions that could be better controlled with reliable access to physician services. Most importantly, the lack of health insurance has been linked to a number of adverse health outcomes including an increased risk of mortality. Arguments that the uninsured receive the same levels of medical care despite their lack of coverage are contradicted by recent studies.