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May 01, 2004 6:46 PM
Study Shows Millions of Working Americans Have No Health Coverage, Suffer Health Gaps as a Result

A comprehensive analysis of government data shows that a significant number of working Americans in every state do not have health care coverage, with at least 20 million working Americans not having coverage. In six states, at least one in five working adults is uninsured. In 38 other states, at least one working adult in every 10 does not have health insurance. The report further reveals that in every state, adults who do not have health insurance experience significant gaps in medical care compared to those who do. 

"Characteristics of the Uninsured: A View from the States" was released today by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) during a kickoff event for Cover the Uninsured Week, a nonpartisan campaign to focus attention on the need to secure health coverage for all Americans. Some of the most influential organizations in the country, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO, are cosponsoring the week, which occurs from May 10-16. Noah Wyle, star of the TV drama "ER," is serving as a national spokesperson. Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), chair of the non-partisan Alliance for Health Reform, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, MD (R-TN), vice chair of the Alliance for Health Reform, joined in today's event to launch the Week. 

Nearly 1,500 public events will take place in all 50 states and the District of Columbia during the Week, designed to bring together diverse community leaders to insist that all Americans have access to health care coverage. Specific events are designed to help uninsured individuals get services and provide information to small business owners struggling to provide health insurance for their employees. 

Supported by nine former Surgeons General and Health and Human Services Secretaries appointed by both Republican and Democratic presidents, the effort is co-chaired by Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. 

"As President and as a member of Congress, I experienced firsthand the challenges inherent in making national health care policy," said President Ford. "To succeed at it, we must find common principles that unite us and move beyond what divides us. If we are to make coverage accessible to all, we must begin by working together." 

"For far too many years, our nation has not lived up to its full potential by delaying the day when all Americans will have health care coverage," said President Carter. "Leaders of every one of our communities need to commit themselves to fulfilling this basic human right." 

The report released today was prepared for RWJF by researchers at the State Health Access Data Assistance Center, located at the University of Minnesota. Additional findings, of surveyed adults ages 18-64, include: 

The problem is pervasive among workers in every state. States with the highest rates of uninsured residents among all employed or self-employed adults include Texas (27 percent), Louisiana (23 percent), Mississippi (22 percent) and New Mexico (22 percent). States with the lowest uninsured rates among all employed or self-employed adults include Minnesota (7 percent), Hawaii (7 percent), Maryland (8 percent) and Iowa (9 percent). 
Uninsured adults are less likely to get the medical care they need. Nationally, nearly one in five uninsured adults (19 percent) reports being unable to get needed medical care in the past 12 months, compared to one in 20 adults (5 percent) with health coverage. 
Uninsured adults are less likely to have a personal doctor or health care provider. Nationally, 56 percent of adults without health insurance say they do not have a personal doctor or health care provider, compared with just 16 percent of people with health insurance. 
Individuals who are uninsured are less likely to receive preventive services. Nearly half (46 percent) of all uninsured women who are the appropriate age for mammograms, as directed by CDC guidelines, say they do not have them in the recommended time frame, more than double the rate of insured women (20 percent). About 70 percent of uninsured men who are the appropriate age for prostate cancer screenings, as directed by CDC guidelines, report not having them in the recommended time frame, compared with 47 percent of insured men. 
Adults who are uninsured are twice as likely to report being in poor or fair health as adults who are insured. Nationally, more than one in five uninsured adults (21 percent) say their health is fair or poor, nearly double the rate of adults with health coverage (11 percent). 
The report uses data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2002 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey (BRFSS). The BRFSS is a national telephone survey of preventive and health risk behaviors. It is administered in all 50 states and D.C. to adults 18 years of age and older. 

The news conference to release the data is the first national event of what will be the largest mobilization ever to secure health coverage for all in the United States, including the nearly 44 million uninsured Americans, among them 8.5 million children. Planned events to be held throughout the nation as part of Cover the Uninsured Week include more than 500 health and enrollment fairs where men, women and children who lack coverage can receive screenings and wellness information. Uninsured individuals who are eligible for public programs will be able to enroll. Information on free or low-cost health insurance, community health centers, free clinics and pharmaceutical assistance programs will also be provided in English and Spanish at the fairs, as well as through a toll-free telephone information number, 1-888-538-4371. 

"Cover the Uninsured Week brings people together around the simple proposition that all of our neighbors must have health care coverage. Today we are presented with a choice. We can remain silent or we can do something about it," said Noah Wyle. "When tens of millions of Americans, most of them working, do not have health insurance of any kind, how can we stay silent?" 

Other activities taking place from coast to coast include seminars for small business owners on how to obtain health coverage for their employees. Medical, dental and nursing students have planned activities on more than 100 campuses. Seventeen local sports teams are sponsoring community health fairs, appearing at events and running public service messages at their stadiums. In a remarkable collaboration, the nation's faith leaders have come together to raise awareness about the need for health care coverage for all Americans. Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders are participating in more than 100 interfaith events, including vigils, prayer breakfasts and congregational programs. 

"Cover the Uninsured Week will make sure everyone understands that we can no longer afford the status quo that allows millions of Americans to go without health coverage," said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "Too many people are uninsured. Too many families are being damaged, and too many lives lost. The human, economic and societal costs of nearly 44 million uninsured Americans are just too great for the country to bear any longer." 

An issues guide developed by the non-partisan Alliance for Health Reform will be distributed at events throughout the country during the Week to help citizens better understand the issues surrounding health coverage and approaches to solving the problem. The easy-to-understand guide, as well as information about resources for people who are uninsured, are available on the campaign's Web site, www.CoverTheUninsuredWeek.org. 

In addition to RWJF, Cover the Uninsured Week is being organized by a diverse group of organizations representing some of the most influential organizations in the United States: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union, Healthcare Leadership Council, American Medical Association, National Medical Association, American Nurses Association, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, America's Health Insurance Plans, American Hospital Association, Federation of American Hospitals, Catholic Health Association of the United States, Families USA, AARP, The United Way of America, National Council of La Raza, The California Endowment and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. 

To view the state-by-state research report, locate Cover the Uninsured Week activities, or download materials in English or Spanish, log on tohttp://www.CoverTheUninsuredWeek.org

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