Pa. survey says 1M lack health insurance

January 29, 2009 10:18:27 AM PST
The number of Pennsylvania residents without health insurance has increased to more than 1 million, according to a state Insurance Department survey released Thursday. The uninsured account for more than 8 percent of all state residents, up from 7.5 percent in the department's last survey in 2004. More than half have been without coverage for a year or less, while nearly 18 percent have been uninsured for more than five years.

The new survey was conducted between September 2007 and May, and the subsequent national recession has likely further increased the number of residents who lack health coverage, Insurance Commissioner Joel Ario said.

"With unemployment going up and the other trends in the economy, the situation is likely significantly worse today that it was back in May of '08," Ario told a news conference.

The findings were drawn from a random telephone survey of nearly 50,000 Pennsylvanians by Market Decisions, a Portland, Maine, market research and consulting firm. The department paid the company $740,000 to conduct the survey, Ario said.

The survey found that the overwhelming majority of the uninsured, nearly 90 percent, are adults. Close to two-thirds said the high cost of insurance was the reason they had no coverage, and other reasons included losing a job and making too much money to qualify for state-sponsored insurance.

The poorest Pennsylvanians are covered by Medicaid. The state also provides insurance through its adultBasic program for working poor adults whose incomes are too high to qualify them for Medicaid.

Pennsylvania also provides free and low-cost health care to nearly 184,000 children through its Cover All Kids program. Familes with household incomes that exceed eligibility limits for a partial state subsidy can obtain coverage by paying the full premium if they meet certain criteria.

The number of people the state can afford to cover is far outstripped by the adultBasic waiting list.

AdultBasic currently covers about 45,000 adults. Four times that many people are on the waiting list, which is projected to balloon to 282,000 by the end of June, Ario said.

Established in 2002, adultBasic is funded with money from the cash surpluses of Pennsylvania's four nonprofit Blue Cross and Blue Shield insurers and from the state's share of a national settlement with major tobacco companies.

For the past two years, Gov. Ed Rendell has pushed for an expansion of government-subsidized health insurance. Republicans who control the state Senate have resisted, saying his plan is too expensive.

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2008 Health Insurance Status Survey: http://tinyurl.com/cb2rlr

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