Nearly 50 million Americans have gone without health insurance for at least part of the past year up from 46 million people in 2008, federal health officials reported Tuesday. Those people included not only those Americans living in poverty, but an increasing number of middle-income people, according to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "The bottom line is that uninsurance of young and middle-class adults increased by 4 million people from 2008 to the first quarter of 2010," CDC Director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden said during a news conference Tuesday.
What's more, the number of people without insurance for a year or more increased from 27.5 million in 2008 to 30.4 million in the first quarter of 2010, Frieden said. "That's an increase of 3 million of chronically uninsured adults." These findings debunk two myths about health insurance, Frieden said. "The first myth is that it's only the poor who are uninsured. In fact, half of the uninsured are over the poverty level," he said. "The second myth is that it's only healthy people who are uninsured and that young healthy people make a choice not to have health insurance. In fact, more than two out of five individuals who are uninsured at some point during the past year had one or more chronic diseases," he said.
During the past 10 years, the number of U.S. adults without insurance for at least part of the year has risen an average of 1.1 million people a year, and about half are middle-income adults, according to the report. People without health insurance are more likely to skip medical care because of cost. This can lead to poorer health, higher long-term health care costs and early death, the report said. Uninsured adults with chronic medical problems are three times more likely to skip medical care, compared to those with insurance. For instance, more than 40 percent of people without insurance who suffer from diabetes, high blood pressure or asthma skipped getting care due to costs, the report found.