The National Academies

More Americans Opting Out of Health Insurance

By Lisa Pickoff-White

May 12 - As the cost of employment-based health insurance and premiums faced by the employee continue to rise, an increasing number of employed Americans are declining coverage, according to a new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. About 3 million fewer eligible Americans signed up for health insurance in 2003, compared with 1998.

There has been a 42 percent increase in the cost of individual, employment-based health care plans between 1998 and 2003, with adjustment for inflation. About 80 percent of eligible workers elected to enroll in their employers’ health care plans in 2003. More than half of all adults who do not have health insurance cite high costs.

A series of Institute of Medicine reports looks at the United States' uninsured population and what the nation should do to ensure health care coverage. Insuring America's Health: Principles and Recommendations calls for universal health coverage by 2010 given the growing stress being placed on the nation's health care system, the exacerbated health problems, and the substantial societal costs that result from more than 45 million Americans lacking health insurance. Hidden Costs, Value Lost: Uninsurance in America estimated the societal economic loss for the United States at between $65 billion and $130 billion every year because of the poorer health and earlier death experienced by the uninsured.

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